Scientific American
Scientific American is a popular science
Popular science
Popular science, sometimes called literature of science, is interpretation of science intended for a general audience. While science journalism focuses on recent scientific developments, popular science is broad-ranging, often written by scientists as well as journalists, and is presented in many...

 magazine. It is notable for its long history of presenting science monthly to an educated but not necessarily scientific public, through its careful attention to the clarity of its text as well as the quality of its specially commissioned color graphics
Graphics are visual presentations on some surface, such as a wall, canvas, computer screen, paper, or stone to brand, inform, illustrate, or entertain. Examples are photographs, drawings, Line Art, graphs, diagrams, typography, numbers, symbols, geometric designs, maps, engineering drawings,or...

. Many famous scientists, including Einstein, have contributed articles in the past 166 years. It is the oldest continuously published monthly magazine in America.


Scientific American was founded by inventor and publisher Rufus M. Porter
Rufus Porter
For the American football player see Rufus Porter .For the American poet see Rufus L. Porter.Rufus M. Porter was an American painter, inventor, and founder of Scientific American magazine....

 in 1845 as a four page weekly newspaper. Throughout its early years, much emphasis was placed on reports of what was going on at the U.S. Patent Office
United States Patent and Trademark Office
The United States Patent and Trademark Office is an agency in the United States Department of Commerce that issues patents to inventors and businesses for their inventions, and trademark registration for product and intellectual property identification.The USPTO is based in Alexandria, Virginia,...

. It also reported on a broad range of inventions including perpetual motion
Perpetual motion
Perpetual motion describes hypothetical machines that operate or produce useful work indefinitely and, more generally, hypothetical machines that produce more work or energy than they consume, whether they might operate indefinitely or not....

 machines, an 1860 device for buoying vessels by Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

, and the universal joint
Universal joint
A universal joint, universal coupling, U joint, Cardan joint, Hardy-Spicer joint, or Hooke's joint is a joint or coupling in a rigid rod that allows the rod to 'bend' in any direction, and is commonly used in shafts that transmit rotary motion...

 which now finds place in nearly every automobile
An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor...

 manufactured. Current issues feature a "this date in history" section, featuring excerpts from articles originally published 50, 100, and 150 years earlier; topics include humorous incidents, wrong-headed theories, and noteworthy advances in the history of science and technology.

Porter sold the newspaper to Alfred Ely Beach
Alfred Ely Beach
Alfred Ely Beach was an American inventor, publisher and patent lawyer, born in Springfield, Massachusetts.-Early years:Beach was born in Springfield, Massachusetts and was the son of a prominent publisher, Moses Beach...

 and Orson Desaix Munn I
Orson Desaix Munn I
Orson Desaix Munn I was the publisher of Scientific American.-Biography:He received his education at the academy in his native town, and, deciding on a business career, went to work for a bookstore in Springfield...

 a mere 10 months after founding it. Until 1948 it remained owned by Munn & Company. Under Orson Desaix Munn III, grandson of the Orson I, it had evolved into something of a "workbench" publication, similar to the 20th century incarnation of Popular Science.

In the years after World War II, the magazine was in steep decline. In 1948, three partners who were planning on starting a new popular science magazine, to be called The Sciences, instead purchased the assets of the old Scientific American and put its name on the designs they had created for their new magazine. Thus the partners—publisher Gerard Piel
Gerard Piel
Gerard Piel was the publisher of the new Scientific American magazine starting in 1948. He wrote for magazines, including The Nation, and published books on science for the general public.-Biography:...

, editor Dennis Flanagan
Dennis Flanagan
Dennis Flanagan was an editor of Scientific American starting in 1947.He worked at Scientific American for more than 30 years starting in 1947. He was married to author Ellen Raskin....

, and general manager Donald H. Miller, Jr.—created essentially a new magazine. Miller retired in 1979, Flanagan and Piel in 1984, when Gerard Piel's son Jonathan became president and editor; circulation had grown fifteen-fold since 1948. In 1986, it was sold to the Holtzbrinck
Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group
Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck is a Stuttgart-based publishing holding company which owns publishing companies worldwide. Holtzbrinck has published everything from Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses to classics by Agatha Christie, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway and John Updike...

 group of Germany, which has owned it since.

In the fall of 2008, Scientific American was put under the control of Nature Publishing Group
Nature Publishing Group
Nature Publishing Group is an international publishing company that publishes academic journals, online databases, and services across the life, physical, chemical and applied sciences and clinical medicine...

, a division of Holtzbrinck.

Donald Miller died in December, 1998, Gerard Piel in September 2004 and Dennis Flanagan in January 2005. Mariette DiChristina
Mariette DiChristina
Mariette DiChristina oversees Scientific American,, Scientific American Mind and all newsstand special editions. A science journalist for more than 20 years, she first came to Scientific American in 2001 as its executive editor. She is also the past president of the...

 is the current editor-in-chief, after John Rennie
John Rennie (editor)
John Rennie was the seventh editor in chief of Scientific American magazine. He holds a bachelors of science degree in biology from Yale University...

 stepped down in June 2009.

International editions

Scientific American published its first foreign edition in 1890, the Spanish-language La America Cientifica. Publication was suspended in 1905, and another 63 years would pass before another foreign-language edition appeared: In 1968, an Italian edition, Le Scienze
Le Scienze
Le Scienze is an Italian science magazine and is the Italian edition of Scientific American, published monthly since 1968. It was founded by industrial Alberto Mondadori and scientist Felice Ippolito....

, was launched, and a Japanese edition, Nikkei Science (日経サイエンス), followed three years later. Kexue (科学,“Science” in Chinese), a simplified Chinese edition launched in 1979, was the first Western magazine published in the People's Republic of China. Later in 2001, a newer edition, Global Science (环球科学), was published instead of Kexue, which shut down due to financial problems. In 1986, an Arabic-edition, Oloom magazine (مجلة العلوم), was published.

Today, Scientific American publishes 18 foreign-language editions around the globe: Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian (discontinued after 15 issues), Polish, Romanian, Russian and Spanish.

From 1902 to 1911, Scientific American supervised the publication of the Encyclopedia Americana
Encyclopedia Americana
Encyclopedia Americana is one of the largest general encyclopedias in the English language. Following the acquisition of Grolier in 2000, the encyclopedia has been produced by Scholastic....

, which during some of that period was known as The Americana.

First issue

It originally styled itself "The Advocate of Industry and Enterprise" and "Journal of Mechanical and other Improvements". On the front page of the first issue was the engraving of "Improved Rail-Road Cars". The masthead had a commentary as follows:
The commentary under the illustration gives the flavor of its style at the time:
Also in the first issue is commentary on Signor Muzio Muzzi's proposed device for aerial navigation.


  • Rufus M. Porter (1792–1884), first
  • Orson Desaix Munn I
    Orson Desaix Munn I
    Orson Desaix Munn I was the publisher of Scientific American.-Biography:He received his education at the academy in his native town, and, deciding on a business career, went to work for a bookstore in Springfield...

    , third
  • Dennis Flanagan
    Dennis Flanagan
    Dennis Flanagan was an editor of Scientific American starting in 1947.He worked at Scientific American for more than 30 years starting in 1947. He was married to author Ellen Raskin....

     (1919–2005) was the editor starting in 1947.
  • Jonathan Piel
    Jonathan Piel
    Jonathan Piel is an American science journalist and editor.-At the Scientific American:He became the editor of Scientific American in June 1984 and left the magazine in August 1994...

    , June 1984 through August 1994
  • John Rennie
    John Rennie (editor)
    John Rennie was the seventh editor in chief of Scientific American magazine. He holds a bachelors of science degree in biology from Yale University...

    , seventh editor-in-chief, 1994–2009
  • Mariette DiChristina
    Mariette DiChristina
    Mariette DiChristina oversees Scientific American,, Scientific American Mind and all newsstand special editions. A science journalist for more than 20 years, she first came to Scientific American in 2001 as its executive editor. She is also the past president of the...

    , eighth editor-in-chief, appointed December 2009

Special issues

  • Communications, Computers, and Networks
    Communications, Computers, and Networks (Scientific American)
    The Scientific American special Issue on Communications, Computers, and Network, is a special issue of Scientific American dedicated to articles concerning impending changes to the internet in the period prior to the expansion and mainstreaming of the world wide web via Mosaic and Netscape...

     - September 1991

Scientific American 50 award

The Scientific American 50 award was started in 2002 to recognize contributions to science and technology during the magazine's previous year. The magazine's 50 awards cover many categories including agriculture, communications, defence, environment, and medical diagnostics. The complete list of each year's winners appear in the December issue of the magazine, as well as on the magazine's web site.


In March 1996, Scientific American launched its own website that includes articles from current and past issues, online-only features, daily news, weird science, special reports, trivia, "Scidoku" and more.


Notable features have included:
  • Martin Gardner
    Martin Gardner
    Martin Gardner was an American mathematics and science writer specializing in recreational mathematics, but with interests encompassing micromagic, stage magic, literature , philosophy, scientific skepticism, and religion...

    's Mathematical Games column
  • Douglas Hofstadter
    Douglas Hofstadter
    Douglas Richard Hofstadter is an American academic whose research focuses on consciousness, analogy-making, artistic creation, literary translation, and discovery in mathematics and physics...

    's Metamagical Themas
    Metamagical Themas
    Metamagical Themas is a collection of eclectic articles written for Scientific American during the early 1980s by Douglas Hofstadter, and published together as a book in 1985 by Basic Books ....

  • The Amateur Scientist
    The Amateur Scientist
    The Amateur Scientist was a column in the Scientific American, and was the definitive "how-to" resource for citizen-scientists for over 72 years , making it the longest running column in Scientific American's history...

  • A.K. Dewdney
    Alexander Dewdney
    Alexander Keewatin Dewdney is a Canadian mathematician, computer scientist and philosopher who has written a number of books on the future and implications of modern computing. He has also written one work of fiction, The Planiverse...

    's Computer Recreations column


From 1990 to 2005 Scientific American also produced a TV program on PBS
Public Broadcasting Service
The Public Broadcasting Service is an American non-profit public broadcasting television network with 354 member TV stations in the United States which hold collective ownership. Its headquarters is in Arlington, Virginia....

 called Scientific American Frontiers
Scientific American Frontiers
Scientific American Frontiers was an American television program primarily focused on informing the public about new technologies and discoveries in science and medicine. It was a companion program to the Scientific American magazine. The show was produced for PBS in the U.S...


Scientific and political debate

In April 1950, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
Atomic Energy Commission
Many countries have or have had an Atomic Energy Commission. These include:* Australian Atomic Energy Commission * Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission * Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique...

 ordered "Scientific American" to cease publication of an issue containing an article by Hans Bethe
Hans Bethe
Hans Albrecht Bethe was a German-American nuclear physicist, and Nobel laureate in physics for his work on the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis. A versatile theoretical physicist, Bethe also made important contributions to quantum electrodynamics, nuclear physics, solid-state physics and...

 that appeared to reveal classified information about the thermonuclear "H-bomb." Subsequent review of the material determined that the AEC had overreacted. The incident was important for the "new" "Scientific American"'s history, as the AEC's decision to burn 3000 copies of an early press-run of the magazine containing the offending material appeared to be "book burning
Book burning
Book burning, biblioclasm or libricide is the practice of destroying, often ceremoniously, books or other written material and media. In modern times, other forms of media, such as phonograph records, video tapes, and CDs have also been ceremoniously burned, torched, or shredded...

 in a free society" when publisher Gerard Piel leaked the incident to the press.

In its January 2002 issue, Scientific American published a series of criticisms of the Bjorn Lomborg book The Skeptical Environmentalist
The Skeptical Environmentalist
The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World is a book by Danish environmentalist author Bjørn Lomborg, controversial for its claims that overpopulation, declining energy resources, deforestation, species loss, water shortages, certain aspects of global warming, and an...

. Cato Institute
Cato Institute
The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C. It was founded in 1977 by Edward H. Crane, who remains president and CEO, and Charles Koch, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the conglomerate Koch Industries, Inc., the largest privately held...

 fellow Patrick J. Michaels said the attacks came because the book "threatens billions of taxpayer dollars that go into the global change kitty every year." Journalist Ronald Bailey
Ronald Bailey
Ronald Bailey is the science editor for Reason magazine. He was born in San Antonio, Texas and raised in Washington County, Virginia, and attended the University of Virginia, where he earned a B.A...

 called the criticism "disturbing" and "dishonest", writing, "The subhead of the review section, 'Science defends itself against The Skeptical Environmentalist, gives the show away: Religious and political views need to defend themselves against criticism, but science is supposed to be a process for determining the facts."

The May 2007 issue featured a column by Michael Shermer
Michael Shermer
Michael Brant Shermer is an American science writer, historian of science, founder of The Skeptics Society, and Editor in Chief of its magazine Skeptic, which is largely devoted to investigating pseudoscientific and supernatural claims. The Skeptics Society currently has over 55,000 members...

 calling for a United States pullout from the Iraq War. In response, Wall Street Journal online columnist James Taranto
James Taranto
James Taranto is an American columnist for The Wall Street Journal, editor of its online editorial page and a member of the newspaper's editorial board. He is best known for his daily online column Best of the Web Today...

 jokingly called Scientific American "a liberal political magazine".

The publisher was criticized in 2009 when it notified collegiate libraries that subscribe to the journal that yearly subscription prices would increase by nearly 500% for print and 50% for online access to $1500 yearly.

See also

  • Albert Graham Ingalls
    Albert Graham Ingalls
    Albert Graham Ingalls was an American scientific editor and amateur astronomer. Through his columns in Scientific American, including "The Amateur Scientist", and his three-volume series Amateur Telescope Making, Ingalls exerted a great influence on amateur astronomy and amateur telescope making...

    , former editor and author of an amateur astronomy
    Amateur astronomy
    Amateur astronomy, also called backyard astronomy and stargazing, is a hobby whose participants enjoy watching the night sky , and the plethora of objects found in it, mainly with portable telescopes and binoculars...

  • Amos Root
    Amos Root
    Amos Ives Root developed innovative beekeeping techniques in the United States during the mid-19th century, a period when the industry played an important role in the economy of many communities. He founded his own company, which continues in business to the present day...

  • New Scientist
    New Scientist
    New Scientist is a weekly non-peer-reviewed English-language international science magazine, which since 1996 has also run a website, covering recent developments in science and technology for a general audience. Founded in 1956, it is published by Reed Business Information Ltd, a subsidiary of...

  • Scientific American Mind
    Scientific American Mind
    Scientific American Mind is a bimonthly American popular science magazine concentrated on psychology, neuroscience, and related fields. By analyzing and revealing new thinking in the cognitive sciences, the magazine tries to focus on the biggest breakthroughs in these fields...

  • Discover (magazine)
    Discover (magazine)
    Discover is an American science magazine that publishes articles about science for a general audience. The monthly magazine was launched in October 1980 by Time Inc. It was sold to Family Media, the owners of Health, in 1987. Walt Disney Company bought the magazine when Family Media went out of...

  • American Scientist
    American Scientist
    American Scientist is the bimonthly science and technology magazine published since 1913 by Sigma Xi. Each issue includes four to five feature articles written by scientists and engineers. These authors review research in all fields of science...

  • 14145 Sciam
    14145 Sciam
    14145 Sciam is a main-belt asteroid discovered on September 17, 1998, by Ted Bowell at Lowell Observatory. It is named after Scientific American magazine.- External links :*...

    , asteroid named after Scientific American

External links

  • Online edition of Scientific American with partially free access to the current issue
  • Online archive (not free) of the issues from 1993 to the present
  • Online archive of the issues before 1930, with indices
  • Online archive of Scientific American between 1846 and 1869, from Cornell University
    Cornell University
    Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

  • Online archive of the covers of more than a thousand issues from circa 1872 to 1931
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