Scientific AmericanScientific American (informally abbreviated SciAm or sometimes SA) is an American popular science magazine. Many famous scientists, including Albert Einstein, have contributed articles to it. It is the oldest continuously published monthly magazine in the United States (though it only became monthly in 1921).
HistoryScientific American was founded by inventor and publisher Rufus M. Porter 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. It also reported on a broad range of inventions including perpetual motion machines, an 1860 device for buoying vessels by Abraham Lincoln, and the universal joint which now can be found in nearly every automobile manufactured. Current issues include 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 publication to Alfred Ely Beach and Orson Desaix Munn a mere ten months after founding it. Until 1948, it remained owned by Munn & Company. Under Munn's grandson, Orson Desaix Munn III, it had evolved into something of a "workbench" publication, similar to the twentieth-century incarnation of Popular Science.
In the years after World War II, the magazine fell into decline. In 1948, three partners who were planning on starting a new popular science magazine, to be called The Sciences, purchased the assets of the old Scientific American instead and put its name on the designs they had created for their new magazine. Thus the partnerspublisher Gerard Piel, editor Dennis Flanagan, and general manager Donald H. Miller, Jr.essentially created 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 group of Germany, which has owned it since.
In the fall of 2008, Scientific American was put under the control of Nature Publishing Group, a division of Holtzbrinck.
Donald Miller died in December 1998, Gerard Piel in September 2004 and Dennis Flanagan in January 2005. Mariette DiChristina became editor-in-chief after John Rennie stepped down in June 2009, and stepped down herself in September 2019. On April 13, 2020, Laura Helmuth assumed the role of Editor-in-chief.
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, was launched, and a Japanese edition, , followed three years later. A new Spanish edition, Investigación y Ciencia was launched in Spain in 1976, followed by a French edition, , in France in 1977, and a German edition, , in Germany in 1978. A Russian edition V Mire Nauki was launched in the Soviet Union in 1983, and continues in the present-day Russian Federation. 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. Founded in Chongqing, the simplified Chinese magazine was transferred to Beijing in 2001. Later in 2005, a newer edition, Global Science (环球科学), was published instead of Kexue, which shut down due to financial problems. A traditional Chinese edition, known as , was introduced to Taiwan in 2002. The Hungarian edition Tudomány existed between 1984 and 1992. In 1986, an Arabic edition, , was published. In 2002, a Portuguese edition was launched in Brazil.
Today, Scientific American publishes 18 foreign-language editions around the globe: Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Simplified Chinese, Traditional 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, which during some of that period was known as The Americana.
First issueIt 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.
Scientific American 50 awardThe 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.
WebsiteIn 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. The website introduced a paywall in April 2019, with readers able to view a few articles for free each month.
ColumnsNotable features have included:
TelevisionFrom 1990 to 2005 Scientific American produced a television program on PBS called Scientific American Frontiers with hosts Woodie Flowers and Alan Alda.
BooksFrom 1983 to 1997, Scientific American has produced an encyclopedia set of volumes from their publishing division, the Scientific American Library. These books were not sold in retail stores, but as a Book of the Month Club selection priced from $24.95 to $32.95. Topics covered dozens of areas of scientific knowledge and included in-depth essays on: The Animal Mind; Atmosphere, Climate, and Change; Beyond the Third Dimension; Cosmic Clouds; Cycles of Life • Civilization and the Biosphere; The Discovery Of Subatomic Particles; Diversity and the Tropical Rain Forest; Earthquakes and Geological Discovery; Exploring Planetary Worlds; Gravity's Fatal Attraction; Fire; Fossils And The History Of Life; From Quarks to the Cosmos; A Guided Tour Of The Living Cell; Human Diversity; Perception; The Solar System; Sun and Earth; The Science of Words (Linguistics); The Science Of Musical Sound; The Second Law (of Thermodynamics); Stars; Supercomputing and the Transformation of Science.
Scientific American launched a publishing imprint in 2010 in partnership with Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Scientific and political debateIn April 1950, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission ordered Scientific American to cease publication of an issue containing an article by Hans Bethe that appeared to reveal classified information about the thermonuclear hydrogen 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 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 Bjørn Lomborg book The Skeptical Environmentalist. Cato Institute 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 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 calling for a United States pullout from the Iraq War. In response, Wall Street Journal online columnist James Taranto jokingly called Scientific American "a liberal political magazine".
The publisher was criticized in 2009 when it notified collegiate libraries that yearly subscription prices for the magazine would increase by nearly 500% for print and 50% for online access to $1500 yearly.
An editorial in the September 2016 issue of Scientific American attacked U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump for alleged "anti-science" attitudes and rhetoric. This marked the first time that the publication forayed into commenting on U.S. presidential politics.
Top 10 Science Stories of the Year
ControversyIn 2013, Danielle N. Lee, a female scientist who blogged at Scientific American, was called a "whore" in an email by an editor at the science website Biology Online after refusing to write professional content without compensation. When Lee, outraged about the email, wrote a rebuttal on her Scientific American blog, the editor-in-chief of Scientific American, Mariette DiChristina, removed the post, sparking an outrage by supporters of Lee. While DiChristina cited legal reasons for removing the blog, others criticized her for censoring Lee. The editor at Biology Online was fired after the incident.
The controversy widened in the ensuing days. The magazine's blog editor, Bora Zivkovic, was the subject of allegations of sexual harassment by another blogger, Monica Byrne. Although the alleged incident had occurred about a year earlier, editor Mariette DiChristina informed readers that the incident had been investigated and resolved to Ms. Byrne's satisfaction. However, the incident involving Dr. Lee had prompted Ms. Byrne to reveal the identity of Zivkovic, following the latter's support of Dr. Lee. Zivkovic responded on Twitter and his own blog, admitting the incident with Ms. Byrne had taken place. His blog post apologized to Ms. Byrne, and referred to the incident as "singular", stating that his behavior was not "engaged in before or since."
Due to the allegations, Zivkovic resigned from the board of Science Online, the popular science blogging conference that he helped establish. Following Zivkovic's admission, several prominent female bloggers, including other bloggers for the magazine, wrote their own accounts that contradicted Zivkovic's assertions, alleging additional incidents of sexual harassment. A day after these new revelations, Zivkovic resigned his position at Scientific American, according to a press release from the magazine.