Distillations magazine

Unexpected Stories from Science’s Past

Rings of Fire

Arsenic cycles through racism and empire in the Americas.


Distillations articles reveal science’s powerful influence on our lives, past and present.


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

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

Impressionist painting of a lily pond
Arts & Culture

Could Claude Monet See Like a Bee?

A harrowing eye surgery may have given the impressionist painter the ability to see UV light.

Inventions & Discoveries

Matthew Carey Lea and the Origins of Mechanochemistry

A reclusive expert of 19th-century photography laid the foundation for green chemistry solutions emerging today.

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.

illustration of a people making paper
Early Science & Alchemy

Chasing the Clues in Isaac Newton’s Manuscripts

The tricks and tools book sleuths use to date the undated.

Health & Medicine

Bacteriophages and the Fight Against Cholera in Cold War Afghanistan

Could a Soviet-era therapy offer a new defense against antibiotic-resistant superbugs?

Inventions & Discoveries

Darwin’s Barnacles

How an obsession with crustaceans guided the naturalist toward his most consequential insights.


How Two Outsider Scientists Saw Inside Climate Change

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

Arts & Culture

Fit to Be Dyed

The enduring appeal of tie-dye.

People & Politics

The Dark Stars of Marietta Blau

A scientist pitted hard work and ingenuity against the constraints she faced as a Jewish woman.

Photo of woman exiting building surrounded by news cameras
People & Politics

Why Did Annie Dookhan Lie?

Forensic science can be a powerful crime-fighting tool, but misdeeds, dubious methodologies, and bogus claims threaten its reputation—and the reputation of science as a whole.

Health & Medicine

Searching for Isabel Morgan

Reconsidering the fate of an overlooked polio fighter.

Cartoon of men in powdered wigs fighting
Health & Medicine

Vicious Doctors and Cruel Diseases in 18th-Century Jamaica

A scientific dispute takes a violent, absurd turn.

Health & Medicine

Wayne Woolley’s Marvelously Equipped Mind

What drove a blind biochemist to experiment with LSD?

Black and white photo portrait of woman in uniform
People & Politics

Lou Henry Hoover, Lost in Translation

Though often celebrated, the adventurous First Lady never received full credit for her scientific accomplishments.

Black and white photo of man and woman in a lab
People & Politics

For the Sake of Science

Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner navigated a life of science through war and peace.

People & Politics

The High-Flying, Death-Defying Discovery of Helium

During the War of 1870, astronomer Jules Janssen risked his life for scientific prestige and French patriotism.