Scientific Literature, Artistic

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Scientific Literature, Artistic


a special genre of literature that deals with science, scientific experiments and exploration, the “drama of ideas” in science, and the lives of real scientists. The genre includes elements of documentary journalism, popular science, and the literature of fiction. Although it is a separate genre, artistic scientific literature is closely related to all three of these genres. However, its exact nature and aesthetics remain a subject of debate.

Unlike popular science literature, which serves mainly to educate and inform, artistic scientific literature is concerned primarily with the human side of science: the life and work of scientists, the psychology of scientific creativity, and the philosophical sources and consequences of scientific discoveries. The genre is of both intellectual and aesthetic value. It combines “general interest” with scientific accuracy and vivid narration with a documentary account of real events.

Artistic scientific literature arose in the 20th century. Certain genres of didactic literature, including Hesiod’s Works and Days, Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things, and Goethe’s Essay on the Metamorphosis of Plants, and the autobiographies and biographies of 19th-century scientists may be regarded as early models for the genre.

Soviet artistic scientific literature began to take shape at the end of the 1920’s and beginning of the 1930’s. At that time, M. Gorky spoke about the need for “vivid artistic scientific thinking” (Sobr. soch., vol. 27, 1953, p. 107). The works of M. Il’in and B. S. Zhitkov, V. V. Bianki’s Forest Gazette, K. G. Paustovskii’s Kara-Bugaz, and the essays of B. N. Agapov, M. M. Prishvin, and M. S. Shaginian were very popular. In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, the genre was greatly enriched by the works of D. S. Danin, O. N. Pisarzhevskii, V. I. Orlov, B. N. Agapov, Iu. G. Veber, and A. I. Sharov. Since 1960, artistic scientific literature has appeared in the annual collection Puti v neznaemoe (Journeys Into the Unknown; published in Moscow).

In most foreign literatures there is no equivalent term for artistic scientific literature. Works that belong to this genre are usually not distinguished from other works of popular science literature. However, many works undoubtedly belong to artistic scientific literature, including P. de Kruif s Microbe Hunters, R. Jungk’s Brighter Than a Thousand Suns, and A. Maurois’s The Life of Sir Alexander Fleming.


Andreev, K. “Na ravnykh pravakh.” God tridtsat’ sed’moi, 1954, no. 3.
Danin, D. Zhazhda iasnosti. Moscow, 1960.
Formuly i obrazy: Spor o nauchnoi teme v khudozhestvennoi literature. Moscow, 1961.
Ivich, A. Poeziia nauki. Moscow, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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