Scientific American

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Scientific American (informally abbreviated SciAm) is a popular science magazine. It is notable for its long history of presenting science monthly to an educated but not necessarily scientific public, through its careful attention to the clarity of its text and perhaps especially the quality of its specially-commissioned color graphics. Einstein is among the many famous scientists who have contributed articles in the past 150 years.



Scientific American was founded by inventor and publisher Rufus M. Porter in 1845 as a single-page newsletter. 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 1849 device for buoying vessels by Abraham Lincoln, and the universal joint which now finds place in nearly every automobile manufactured. Current issues feature 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 newsletter to Alfred Ely Beach and Orson Desaix Munn I a mere 10 months after founding it. Until 1948 it remained owned by Munn & Company. Under Orson Desaix Munn III, grandson of the Orson I, it had evolved into something of a "workbench" publication, similar to the 20th century incarnation of Popular Science.

In the years after World War II, the magazine was in steep decline. In 1948, three partners who were planning on starting a new popular science magazine, to be called The Sciences, instead purchased the assets of the old Scientific American and put its name on the designs they had created for their new magazine. Thus the partners—publisher Gerard Piel, editor Dennis Flanagan, and general manager Donald H. Miller, Jr. -- created essentially 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 fifteenfold since 1948. In 1986 it was sold to the Holtzbrinck group of Germany, who have owned it since.

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