Rollo’s Experiments is a 19th century novel intended to teach about science. It’s one of the earliest examples of the use of juvenile literature, juvenile fiction in fact, being used for scientific popularization and education. The book starts off with Rollo wanting to figure out why the sun shines farther inside the barn in the winter, than in the summer. His friend Jonas says it’s because they want the sunlight more in the winter and Rollo says “I don’t believe the sun moves about in the heavens, to different places, only just to shine into barn doors.” So they decide to do an experiment to track the sun’s light.
The Niels Bohr Library & Archives is particularly interested in physics education, in all its forms, whether it’s more popular works like The Magic School Bus or classic physics textbooks. We collect broadly so we can trace not only how science itself has changed over time, but also how our understanding and learning about science has changed. Science popularizations are fun for librarians to collect because they’re written for us, as we’re not scientists, unless you really consider library science a true “science.” But these books were meant to spark curiosity and engage the reader; they don’t assume a base level of knowledge or use jargon.
The study of science popularizations is also fascinating for historians of science, Joanna Behrman, Assistant Public Historian at AIP says,
Because it offers a window into the value system of science. This can mean both how science "ought" to be done, but also what aspects of nature are worthy of study and who is worthy of studying them. Children's literature like Rollo's Experiments, which are not meant only for future scientists but all children whether or not they continue in science, can also offer insight into what value scientific knowledge holds for any individual and thus also for society as a whole. Does someone need to know some level of science to be a good citizen, for instance? Or does knowing the processes of science build intellectual abilities or good character?
These are questions we’re still grappling with today.