In The Beginning
Scientific American, the longest continuously published magazine in the U.S., has been bringing its readers unique insights about developments in science and technology for more than 170 years.
In 1845, Rufus Porter founded the publication as a weekly broadsheet subtitled "The Advocate of Industry and Enterprise, and Journal of Mechanical and Other Improvements." A restless inventor, Porter soon turned to other ventures, and after 10 months sold Scientific American - for the sum of $800 - to Orson Desaix Munn and Alfred Ely Beach.
In an era of rapid innovation, Scientific American founded the first branch of the U.S. Patent Agency, in 1850, to provide technical help and legal advice to inventors. A Washington, D.C., branch was added in 1859. By 1900 more than 100,000 inventions had been patented thanks to Scientific American.
For a century, Munn & Company retained ownership of the magazine, which chronicled the major discoveries and inventions of the Industrial Revolution, including the Bessemer steel converter, the telephone and the incandescent lightbulb. Edison presented the prototype of the phonograph for inspection by the editors, and Samuel Morse, father of the telegraph, and Elias Howe, inventor of the sewing machine, were frequent visitors to the offices in downtown New York City.
At the turn of the century, vehicles were of particular interest, and in 1899, a special issue was devoted exclusively to bicycles and automobiles. The editors took great delight in reporting new speed records, including a land speed record of a mile in 39.4 seconds set in 1904 by Henry Ford while driving across the ice of Lake St. Clair, Michigan.
By this time, the magazine had established its hallmark for pinpointing emerging trends before news of them reached the general population. Articles on Marconi's experiments appeared two decades before the advent of radio. Scientific American published photographs of the Wright Brothers' plane nearly two years before the successful Kitty Hawk flight. Robert Goddard contributed an article in 1921 defending and explaining his work on developing a rocket capable of reaching "interplanetary distances." In 1927 Scientific American reported on a practical demonstration of television that sent the voice and moving image of Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover over telephone wires from Washington, D.C., to New York.
In 1948 Gerard Piel, Dennis Flanagan and Donald Miller purchased Scientific American from Munn & Company and founded Scientific American, Inc. In their quest to increase the immediacy, timeliness and authority of the magazine, they insisted that the majority of the articles be written by the people who actually did the work described - a unique distinction among consumer magazines that still applies.
With ahead-of-the-curve reporting, Scientific American continued to cover groundbreaking events in science and technology. An article prophetically entitled "Computers in Business" was published in 1954. From the successful launch of Telstar to a single-topic issue that identified "Key Technologies for the 21st Century," the magazine has alerted its audience to the expanding possibilities of communications. Medical coverage included Jonas Salk writing on the development of his polio vaccine, Robert Jarvik detailing the creation of the Jarvik-7 artificial heart, and single-topic issues on AIDS and the immune system. New technologies that revolutionized the automobile industry were explored.
More than 150 Nobel laureates have written for Scientific American, most of whom wrote about their prize-winning works years before being recognized by the Nobel Committee. In addition to the likes of Albert Einstein, Francis Crick, Jonas Salk and Linus Pauling, Scientific American continues to attract esteemed authors from many fields:
World leaders: former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway, former United Nations Secretary-General Trygve Lie
U.S. Government Officials: former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, former Secretary of Defense Les Aspin
Economists and Industrialists: John Kenneth Galbraith, Lester Thurow, Mitchell Kapor, Michael Dertouzos, Nicholas Negroponte
In 1986 Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, a German-based publishing group, bought Scientific American, Inc. In June 2009, Scientific American joined Nature Publishing Group (NPG) to form the heart of NPG’s newly-formed consumer media division, meeting the needs of the general public. Scientific American and NPG are both part of Macmillan Publishers Ltd, a Holtzbrinck group company.
Scientific American is the award-winning authoritative source for the science discoveries and technology innovations that matter.
In 2009, Mariette DiChristina became the eighth Editor-in-Chief in Scientific American's history and the first woman to hold the position. A science journalist for more than 20 years, DiChristina first came to Scientific American in 2001 as its executive editor, a position she held until her current appointment. She is also the former president (2009 and 2010) of the National Association of Science Writers and has been an adjunct professor at the Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program of New York University. Under DiChristina’s leadership, the magazine has received numerous accolades including a 2011 National Magazine Award for General Excellence. In 2014, DiChristina was honored as a Corporate Visionary during the Folio Top Women in Media Awards ceremony.
Scientific American is a truly global enterprise. Scientific American publishes 14 local language editions, read in more than 30 countries. Scientific American has 3.5 million print and tablet readers worldwide, 5.5 million global online unique visitors monthly, and a social media reach of 3.5+ million.