Matt Lavine's work explores the intersection of science and American popular culture in the late 19th and early 20th century. He is interested in the process by which science became first a topic of polite conversation, then a launching pad for political and literary fantasies and finally, in the rueful words of a liberal Baptist minister in 1932, "the arbiter of this generation's thought."
His first book, The First Atomic Age: Scientists, Radiations and the American Public, 1845-1945, is an examination the first half-century of Americans' experiences of radiation and radioactivity. He argues that the intense interest they generated among nonscientists influenced the prestige of science and medicine, and provided the real foundation for post-Hiroshima nuclear culture. His second book project, on which he is currently conducting research, deals with the relationship between scientific authority and adult sexual education in late 19th and early 20th century America.