Britons Give Scientists Mixed Marks

LONDON—Over two-thirds of British people believe that national prosperity depends upon advances in science and technology, while 80 percent feel that it is important for the future of their country to be a leader in science. But a Gallup survey of more than 1,000 people also found that half of the respondents think that scientists are too secretive and that scientific discovery can pose dangers to humanity. Asked to name “the three most famous scientists, living or dead,” 3

Jan 25, 1988
The Scientist Staff

LONDON—Over two-thirds of British people believe that national prosperity depends upon advances in science and technology, while 80 percent feel that it is important for the future of their country to be a leader in science. But a Gallup survey of more than 1,000 people also found that half of the respondents think that scientists are too secretive and that scientific discovery can pose dangers to humanity.

Asked to name “the three most famous scientists, living or dead,” 31 percent of people voted for Albert Einstein, 13 percent each for Louis Pasteur and Isaac Newton, 10 percent for Marie Curie and 9 percent for Alexander Fleming. The only present-day names mentioned were those scientists who appear on television.

Commissioned by the BBC for a radio program entitled No Science Please, We’re British, the survey also showed that 48 percent of individuals feel that scientists are “unfashionable” and 38 percent that they are “in a world of their own.” About half the sample (and slightly more men than women) said that the public ought to have more say in what scientists do.


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(The Scientist, Vol:2, #2, p.8, January 25, 1988)
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