History of Science

Attenborougharion rubicundus is one of more than a dozen species named after the legendary naturalist Sir David Attenborough.

Why Scientists Name Species

From the Beyonce fly to the David Attenborough possum, the names we bestow on animals have real conservation impacts

Anti-cholera inoculation in Calcutta in 1894.

Science Still Bears the Fingerprints of Colonialism

Western science long relied on the knowledge and exploitation of colonized peoples. In many ways, it still does

A vintage ad for patent medicines, which usually didn't list their active ingredients. We now know that many contained morphine, cocaine, opium and more.

How Advertising Shaped the First Opioid Epidemic

And what it can teach us about the second

Marvin, a trailblazer in more ways than one, surveys the Antarctic terrain on her meteorite-hunting expedition of 1978-79.

The Rockstar Geologist Who Mapped the Minerals of the Cosmos

A professor told Ursula Marvin she should learn to cook. Instead she chased down meteorites in Antarctica

For all their flaws, lab mice have become an invaluable research model for genetics, medicine, neuroscience and more. But few people know the story of the first standardized lab mice.

The History of Breeding Mice for Science Begins With a Woman in a Barn

Far more than a mouse fancier, Abbie Lathrop helped establish the standard mouse model and pioneered research into cancer inheritance

Did a falling apple really influence Newtonian physics?

Sometimes, a Scientific “Eureka!” Moment Really Does Change the World

Your plastic credit card, microwaveable popcorn and erection enhancers all owe to a fortuitous moment of connection

Illustration made using an 1851 portrait of Mitchell by H. Dassell and a false-color image of supernova remnant Cassiopeia A by NASA.

Women Who Shaped Science

Smithsonian.com is sharing the stories of women scientists who also changed the world, but were written out of history.

A replica of Foucault's famous experiment at the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e Tecnica in Milan, Italy

How Does Foucault's Pendulum Prove the Earth Rotates?

This elegant scientific demonstration has been delighting everyday people for nearly 200 years

NASA Teacher-in-Space trainee Sharon Christa McAuliffe (right) and backup Barbara R. Morgan practice experiments during a zero-gravity training flight on October 16, 1985.

In Stellar Tribute, Astronauts Teach "Lost Lessons" From Educator Who Died on <em>Challenger</em>

Christa McAuliffe had planned to teach the lessons during her 1986 trip to space. Now, two astronauts will finally carry out the plan

Baber gathering fossils at Mazon Creek, Illinois, 1895, during the first field class at the University of Chicago to which women were admitted.

The Woman Who Transformed How We Teach Geography

By blending education and activism, Zonia Baber made geography a means of uniting—not conquering—the globe

During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F Kennedy discusses results of surveillance missions in Cuba

How the Presidency Took Control of America's Nuclear Arsenal

From Truman onwards, the ability to order a nuclear strike has shaped the office

When a Medical “Cure” Makes Things Much, Much Worse

In 1960s Japan, a bizarre outbreak of hairy green tongues failed to set off alarms around the world

Ephraim McDowell is memorialized in the U.S. Capitol Statuary Hall Collection

This American Doctor Pioneered Abdominal Surgery by Operating on Enslaved Women

Glorified with a statue in the U.S. Capitol, Ephraim McDowell is a hero in Kentucky, but the full story needs to be told

Spandex, under the brand name Lycra, quickly took off after it was introduced in 1962. This ad was published in Good Housekeeping in October of that year.

Thank(?) Joseph Shivers For Spandex

From Spanx to space suits, spandex has shaped modern garments

The interior of the Cocoanut Grove nightclub after the fire.

Three Medical Breakthroughs That Can Be Traced Back to a Tragic Nightclub Fire

Four hundred ninety-two people died as a result of the horrifying fire, an unprecedented death toll that led physicians to make unprecedented innovations

What would the days, weeks, years after a nuclear explosion really look like? In 1983, Carl Sagan gave the public their first imagining.

When Carl Sagan Warned the World About Nuclear Winter

Before the official report came out, the popular scientist took to the presses to paint a dire picture of what nuclear war might look like

Benjamin Banneker as portrayed on a stamp released in 1980 as part of a Black Heritage series.

Three Things to Know About Benjamin Banneker's Pioneering Career

Banneker was a successful almanac-maker and self-taught student of mathematics and astronomy

The tenth inkblot in Rorschach's series.

Hermann Rorschach’s Artistic Obsession Led to His Famous Test

Rorschach's high school nickname was "Kleck," which means "inkblot" in German

This paper log for Interface Message Processor shows the very first online communication.

These Two Small Letters Heralded the Beginning of Online Communication

Their message is far more profound in retrospect than it was at the time

Nicholas Culpeper fought against the medical establishment of the time by taking the radical action of writing in English, not Latin.

How Nicholas Culpeper Brought Medicine to the People

His 17th-century text is still in print today

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