This article is from the In-Depth Report Celebrating 170 Years of Scientific American

Scientific American Covers Reveal a Shift from Practical to Provocative

When our magazine went monthly in 1921, it was published as a journal of “practical information”—one definition of “scientific.” Since then, cover topics have reflected science's progress. Engineering and other applied sciences predominated until after World War II, when attention turned to the natural world (biology) and later to theoretical pursuits (physics, astronomy). Today neuroscience and evolution are surging—and raising controversial questions.

Graphic by Jen Christiansen

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This article was originally published with the title "How Science Evolves."

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