Little Bits of History

Sci Am

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 28, 2013
Scientific American

First Scientific American

August 28, 1845: Rufus Porter publishes a new magazine. Porter was a painter and inventor who was born in Massachusetts in 1792. He started school at the age of four and the family moved to Maine when he was nine. He was one of six children. In 1815 he married and moved to Connecticut. He opened a dance studio and also began to paint portraits. He traveled as far as Hawaii in 1818-19 and then returned to New England. Between 1825 and 1845 he decorated ≈ 160 houses along the East Coast becoming famous as a muralist. He had ten children with his first wife and after her death, he remarried and had six more children.

He was also an inventor and produced a portable camera obscura with which he produced silhouette pictures in under 15 minutes, charging twenty cents each (≈ $10 in 2009 USD). He experimented with wind power for many domestic and agricultural uses. He invented many items without realizing much financial gain. He published four editions of A Selected Collection of Valuable and Curious Arts, and Interesting Experiments in 1825-26. In 1841 he bought into the New York mechanic and published it out of New York City for 23 weekly issue. He then moved the magazine to Boston and renamed it American mechanic. He published his plans for many innovative items before it folded after the 106th issue.

He started this new venture in 1845. The weekly broadsheet came out every Thursday and was subtitled “The Advocate of Industry and Enterprise, and Journal of Mechanical and Other Improvements.” The magazine emphasized proceedings at the US patent office as well as innovations by great thinkers of the era. Abraham Lincoln’s device for buoying vessels was featured as was an article on the universal joint – still used today in almost every car made. The magazine is one of the oldest continually published in the US – Scientific American.

Today, Scientific American is published monthly and is global in scope. Also called SciAm, it is published in fifteen foreign languages and has more than one million copies in circulation worldwide. Their contributors explore scientific theories and educate the general public concerning the latest discoveries.

“No one should approach the temple of science with the soul of a money changer.” – Thomas Browne

“The most remarkable discovery made by scientists is science itself.” – Gerard Piel

“But in science the credit goes to the man who convinces the world, not to the man to whom the idea first occurs.” – Francis Darwin

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” – Isaac Asimov

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Only ten months after beginning the magazine, Porter sold it to Orson Desaix Munn I and Alfred Ely Beach. The monthly magazine is available in print and since 1996 they have maintained an online presence at Their total circulation is almost 500,000. Appointed in December 2009 as the eighth in line, Mariette DiChristina is the editor. She is the first woman to hold that post. Between 1990 and 2005, Scientific American also produced a program on PBS. There have been a few times when the magazine ran afoul. In the 1950s, they were accused of giving away classified information, but it was found to be a false accusation. They have also been criticized for articles in this century concerning the environment, war, and even their pricing structure.

Also on this day: First Tornado Photograph – In 1884, the first tornado photograph is made.
Odds and Evens – In 888, the last date written in all even numbers for over a thousand years.
Enceladus – In 1789, William Herschel found Enceladus in the night sky.

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