Natural History: The State of the Science in 1916 Restoration of “monster” Carcharodon megalodon fossil at the American Museum of Natural History, New York. The jaws are currently on display in the Hall of Vertebrate Origins. Credits: Image: Scientific American, July 29, 1916
Jaws: Restoration of “monster”
Carcharodon megalodon fossil at the American Museum of Natural History, New York. The jaws are currently on display in the Hall of Vertebrate Origins. Image: Scientific American, July 29, 1916
Great White Shark: “Fortunately, this giant of the seas is not normally to be found in the Atlantic.” This female, however, was caught not far from the crowded beaches of Provincetown.
Image: Scientific American, July 29, 1916
Brachinus crepitans, the bombardier beetle, has always astonished naturalists. These species defend themselves by blasting out of their abdomen boiling, noxious chemicals to distances up to 8 inches. Image: Scientific American Supplement, August 12, 1916
Eyes: A nicely rendered drawing of a scorpion relative, a fossilized
Pterygotus osiliensis, showing the position (“C”) of the compound eyes. Image: Scientific American Supplement, April 4, 1916 Advertisement
Red in Tooth and Claw:
Scientific American described this muscular, athletic Ceratosaurus nasicornus as a “monster extinct reptile” and a “great blood-thirsty lizard of the Triassic.” Image: Scientific American Supplement, January 15, 1916
Big Clumsy Dinosaurs: Dynamic dinosaurs seemed wrong to one correspondent, who sent in his own illustration showing that
Ceratosaurus nasicornus “rested on their bellies on the ground like all saurians” such as crocodiles. Image: Scientific American Supplement, March 18, 1916
Mammoth Remains: In Upnor, England, fossils of a gigantic elephant were discovered in 1911 and recovered in 1915. This tusk, from the extinct
Palaeoloxodon antiquus, measured 16 feet. Image: Scientific American Supplement, April 8, 1916
Tools of the Trade: Camera (a Cycle Graphic made by a division of Eastman Kodak Co.) set up with a tripwire to take candid images of wildlife in a natural habitat. The big drawback was the grenade-like explosion of flash powder that threw light on the subject.
Image: Scientific American Supplement, April 8, 1916 Advertisement
Models of Life: Before 3-dimensional computer modelling and micrographs, one way to represent microscopic creatures was to make large models of them in blown glass. This radiolarian is from the American Museum of Natural History, New York.
Image: Scientific American Supplement, December 9, 1916
Replicating Nature: Technical skill and artistry is needed by this staff member at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, painstakingly working on model stalactites in an exhibition of the inside of a cave.
Image: Scientific American Supplement, December 9, 1916 Advertisement
The April 2016 issue of
Scientific American peers into the distant past of natural organisms (including the human one) with the help of electron microscopes, computer modeling, DNA comparisons of living species and even magnetic resonance images of brains of modern researchers as they learn the ancient art of flint knapping. A century ago in 1916 the science of natural history was just learning how to use tools such as the camera, glass models, artists’ reconstructions, and studying whatever living or dead specimens they could find. In this slide show are some images from the frontiers of the science of natural history from 100 years ago.
You can find much more on the history of natural history by excavating articles from the Scientific American Archive at
This article was originally published with the title "Natural History"
In the store
Expertise. Insights. Illumination.
Discover world-changing science. Explore our digital archive back to 1845, including articles by more than 150 Nobel Prize winners.