Proclaiming itself “The Advocate of Industry and Enterprise, and Journal of Mechanical and Other Improvements,” the magazine Scientific American debuted on August 28, 1845. It was originally a quirky mixture of reports on new inventions and scientific discoveries (along with the occasional poem and philosophical essay) that reflected the fickle interests of its eccentric founder, Rufus M. Porter, an inventor, sometime gunsmith and landscape painter. With changing ownership, the publication went through a variety of formats over more than a century and a half, from a weekly patent newspaper to a hobbyist’s broadsheet to a gorgeously produced magazine with leading scientific experts as authors, but it always served as a chronicle of emerging science and technology. Today, Scientific American continues as the oldest continuously published magazine in the U.S.
I joined Scientific American’s Board of Editors in 1989 and served as its editor in chief between 1994 and 2009. It was a remarkable period in the magazine’s history that gave me the opportunity to manage its transition to fully digital publishing, the launch of its website (www.scientificamerican.com) and the expansion of its online editorial presence and the launch of its sister magazine Scientific American Mind, as well as a variety of other fine projects, including the special newsstand issues Earth 3.0 and Scientific American Body. During this period, Scientific American received two National Magazine Awards for General Excellence in Single-Topic Issues for What You Need to Know about Cancer (Sept. 1996) and A Matter of Time (Sept. 2002). An editorial that I wrote, “Okay, We Give Up” (April 2005) was a National Magazine Award finalist in the Essays and Opinions category. My 2002 article, “15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense,” is one of the most read and downloaded articles in the history of ScientificAmerican.com.
Some Samples of my work
SA Perspectives: “Okay, We Give Up” (April 2005). A satirical response to anti-scientific criticisms.
Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Integrity Displayed (April 9, 2008) and Six Things in Expelled That Ben Stein Doesn’t Want You to Know... (April 16, 2008, with Steve Mirsky). Takedowns of the deplorable anti-evolution film. A related podcast interview is here.
15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense (July 2002). Debunking some of the most common false arguments against evolution science.
The Cold Odds against Columbia (Feb. 7, 2003). My commentary on the senselessness of the Columbia shuttle disaster.
My Moon Landing (July 2009). My farewell essay for Scientific American.
See No Evil (May 2009). An essay: Primates can be dangerous, especially the human ones.
Dennis Flanagan, a Proud ‘Renaissance Hack’ (Jan. 25, 2005). Obituary for one of the founders of the modern Scientific American.