Please note: the Science History Institute Museum will close at 4pm on Friday, September 22 and reopen at 5pm for Vibrant, Dazzling, BOLD: An Opening Celebration.

Distillations magazine

Unexpected Stories from Science’s Past


Our impact on the natural and built worlds

Black and white engraving of a man grafting a tree in front of a farmhouse

Forests of the Future

Modern agricultural practices are unsustainable. Is tree farming the answer?

Color photograph of a colorful bird

How to Display a Hoatzin

The Bronx Zoo’s strange obsession with an even stranger bird.


The Tragedy of the World’s First Seed Bank

Soviet geneticist Nikolai Vavilov led an ideologically perilous campaign to rid the world of famine.


Speaking to the Future

Nuclear waste remains dangerous for millennia, so how do we keep people in the distant future away from it?


The Simple Usefulness of the Secchi Disk

A centuries-old sailor’s hack enters the ecologist’s toolkit.


The Toll of the Road

Calculating the automobile’s grisly impact on wildlife.


Stuck Inside

Space toilets and the lessons of living in closed environments.


River Gods, Lake Monsters, and the Abiding Power of Myth

How ancient (and not so ancient) cultures thought about water purity and contamination.

Photo of mattress with spraypainted warning

A Perfect Glutton, Never Ceasing

With their creeping, bloodsucking ways, bedbugs continue to mock human superiority.


Ruth Patrick’s Lovely Creatures

The groundbreaking ecologist showed that the biological diversity within a stream can be used to diagnose its health.


How Two Outsider Scientists Saw Inside Climate Change

Eunice Foote and Guy Callendar showed the warming effects of CO2 in the atmosphere.


The Sun Queen and the Skeptic: Building the World’s First Solar Houses

In the mid-20th century, colleagues-turned-rivals Maria Telkes and Hoyt Hottel engineered new ways of heating American homes.

large crowd outside in city

Philadelphia Earth Week, Fifty Years On

The successes and shortcomings of the first Earth Day in 1970 still reverberate.

Two women standing on street dabbing their eyes

Smith Griswold Sells the War against Smog

To fight air pollution, officials first had to convince Californians that carmakers were the enemy, not cars.


Poison Pill: The Mysterious Die-Off of India’s Vultures

India’s vultures have been driven to the brink of extinction in a matter of decades. Their loss threatens the well-being of the country’s human population.


Where Lies Humanity’s Salvation—Conservation or Innovation?

Scientists William Vogt and Norman Borlaug took very different approaches to feeding the world.


Harry versus the Volcano

Foul-mouthed, heavy-drinking eccentric Harry R. Truman became a folk hero for refusing to evacuate his home in the months before Mount St. Helens erupted. Where did he go once it did?


Nor Any Drop to Drink

Drought drove American pursuit of desalination in the mid-20th century. Now a changing climate has compelled nations around the world to embrace the double-eged technology.