Distillations magazine

Unexpected Stories from Science’s Past

Rings of Fire

Arsenic cycles through racism and empire in the Americas.

Read

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

Health & Medicine

The Rotten Science Behind the MSG Scare

How one doctor’s letter and a string of dodgy studies spurred a public health panic.

Health & Medicine

The Murky Ethics of Wastewater Surveillance

By monitoring sewage, scientists can track disease outbreaks in near real time. But will the technology leave long-term privacy risks in its wake?

Health & Medicine

Fighting through the Fear

Lessons from the Polio Pioneers in an era of misinformation.

Large, damaged ancient Egyptian statue
Health & Medicine

Diagnosing the Dead

Can scrutinizing the ailments of historical figures really teach us anything?

People & Politics

Georg Bredig: Scientist, Humanist, and Holocaust Survivor

Restoring the legacy of a physical chemistry pioneer.

Health & Medicine

Does Louis Pasteur Still Matter?

Or will the scientist’s 200th birthday be his last hurrah?

Inventions & Discoveries

Magnesium, from the Sea to the Stars

Dow’s gamble on magnesium helped push the boundaries of human exploration and launched an ocean of consumer products.

People & Politics

American Fevers, American Plagues

How yellow fever outbreaks in the early United States anticipated much of what we lament about the COVID-19 era.

Environment

The Tragedy of the World’s First Seed Bank

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

People & Politics

Confronting America’s Food Emergencies

Can a White House conference muster the political will needed to address the nation’s food insecurity and obesity crises? A summit from 1969 offers clues.

Early Science & Alchemy

William Dampier, Revered and Reviled

The pirate-turned-naturalist-turned-pirate-again inspired generations of British writers and scientists.

People & Politics

Mouse Heaven or Mouse Hell?

Biologist John Calhoun’s rodent experiments gripped a society consumed by fears of overpopulation.

Inventions & Discoveries

Greenbacks, Chits, and Scrip

Alternative currencies flourish in desperate times and situations.

Environment

Speaking to the Future

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

Environment

The Simple Usefulness of the Secchi Disk

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

Environment

The Toll of the Road

Calculating the automobile’s grisly impact on wildlife.

illustration of a person with cholera
Health & Medicine

John Snow Hunts the Blue Death

In showing that cholera spreads through tainted water, an English doctor helped lay epidemiology’s foundations.

Environment

Stuck Inside

Space toilets and the lessons of living in closed environments.