Distillations magazine

Unexpected Stories from Science’s Past

Rings of Fire

Arsenic cycles through racism and empire in the Americas.

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

Color photo of two men in suits, one without a shirt, photographed walking in the dark
People & Politics

Valery Fabrikant and Science’s Ethical Limits

Is it right to publish research from an unrepentant murderer?

Engraving of young Victorian woman crouch at feet of seated older woman
Health & Medicine

How Notorious Abortionist Madame Restell Built a Drug Empire

Desperate women, mistreated by the 19th century’s medical establishment, risked black-market remedies and the wrath of Anthony Comstock’s moralizing thugs.

A boy cutting into the bark of tree
People & Politics

The Human Price of American Rubber

Segregated lives of privilege, pride, and peril on Firestone’s Liberian plantations.

Group of eleven older men posing with a large taxidermy fish
Environment

Fish Hacks

Often dismissed as a “trash fish,” the porgy anchors black maritime culture.

Ink and watercolor illustration of a modern surgical procedure
Health & Medicine

Prison Plastic Surgery

Can a new look unlock a new life?

Back of a 7 of spades card featuring witches riding broomsticks with golden birds
Health & Medicine

The Big Business of Wish Fulfillment

Essential oils have a long history of straddling the lines between medicine, magic, and scam.

Hand drawn histology illustration of nerve cells
Inventions & Discoveries

A Cold Day in Stockholm

At the dawn of a new age in neuroscience, the rivalry between Camillo Golgi and Santiago Ramón y Cajal reached an icy climax.
Black and white engraving of a man grafting a tree in front of a farmhouse
Environment

Forests of the Future

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

Color photograph of a colorful bird
Environment

How to Display a Hoatzin

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

Satirical cartoon of Darwinism using a circus theme
People & Politics

The Case Against Charles Darwin

How the investigation into a grisly murder shocked 19th-century France and framed the scientist as an accomplice.

Magazine cover showing a man wearing a translucent illustration of a gas mask with the features of his face visible beneath
Inventions & Discoveries

Like Monstrosities from Another World

The gas mask’s grip on our collective consciousness.

Close-up portrait of an older man with his eyes closed
People & Politics

In the Shadow of Oppenheimer

How popular narratives of the atomic age obscure the bomb’s first victims.

Animation of people watching a fireworks display in Lake Havasu, Arizona
Arts & Culture

Chasing the Light

Pyro enthusiasts converge on Lake Havasu City, Arizona, for an annual event known as the Western Winter Blast.

Black and white family photo
People & Politics

Yue Xiong’s Great Leap

A promising young man from a politically marked family navigates China’s era of Maoist upheaval.

Collage showing natural history illustrations and newspaper clippings
People & Politics

The Problem of Piltdown Man

Seduced by a racist idea, archaeologists hyped an outrageous hoax.

3-D color diagram of human chest interior
Inventions & Discoveries

A Fix for the Unfixable: Making the First Heart-Lung Machine

Seventy years ago, a group of Philadelphia scientists and a brave 18-year-old pushed surgery to its final frontier.

Collage with illustrations and photographs with a heredity theme
People & Politics

Losing the Genetic Lottery

How did a field meant to reclaim genetics from Nazi abuses wind up a haven for race science?

People & Politics

Percy Julian and the False Promise of Exceptionalism

Reflecting on the trailblazing chemist’s fight for dignity and the myths we tell about our scientific heroes.