On Thursday, August 28, 1845, as the innovations born of the industrial revolution were sweeping across the young U.S., an aspirational weekly broadsheet with handsome engraved illustrations appeared, promising to be “The Advocate of Industry and Enterprise, and Journal of Mechanical and Other Improvements”: Scientific American. Its founder and editor, an itinerant inventor and landscape painter named Rufus Porter, promised informational graphics about “New Inventions, Scientific Principles, and Curious Works” and news of “progress of Mechanical and other Scientific Improvements,” including patents, “Miscellaneous Intelligence” and even poetry. (The first issue had a tribute to “Attraction,” with rhymes that somehow managed to range from fundamental physical forces such as gravity to the lure of human romance.)
Today Scientific American is our country's longest continuously published magazine—the flagship of editions in 15 languages (there are another eight of its sister title, Scientific American Mind)—with all the modern iterations you would expect: a lively Web site with daily news and blogs, apps, newsletters, a book imprint with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, a textbook series with Macmillan Higher Education, eBooks, events, and more. The magazine has grown up alongside its parent country, documenting the scientific advances and technological innovations that have enhanced human lives and fueled economic growth.
Starting this month, we're celebrating our 170th anniversary with a series of editorial activities that will run through the end of the year, and we invite you to participate. Stay tuned.
Scientific American readers have curious minds and a shared passion for lifelong learning. In the inaugural issue, Porter noted that the editors would foster student development. “As a family newspaper,” he wrote in his introduction, “it will convey more useful intelligence to children and young people, than five times its cost in school instruction.” (At the time, that cost was $2 annually, worth more than $60 in 2015 dollars.) Today, with national concerns about educating our next generation to succeed in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), we still report on these topics. (See our special section on “Building the 21st-Century Learner.”) And I deeply hope, as a lovely 1911 editorial in this magazine put it, that we may continue to inspire with tales that evoke “the inherent charm and fascination of science.”