Distillations magazine

Unexpected Stories from Science’s Past

Fish Hacks

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


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

Inventions & Discoveries

Silver and Sunlight

In the early 19th century people dreamed of using light to paint permanent images.

People & Politics

Chemical Relations: William and Lawrence Knox, African American Chemists

For brothers William and Lawrence Knox, earning PhDs in chemistry was not enough to overcome discrimination.

Arts & Culture

Mrs. Chemistry

When Jane Marcet wrote Conversations on Chemistry she had little idea it would introduce Michael Faraday into the world of science.

People & Politics

The Pursuit of Sweet

From lab accident to wonder drug to chemical has-been, saccharin’s history tracks the rise of consumer consciousness, government regulation, and the uncertainties underlying scientific evidence.

Old medicine container tube
Health & Medicine

Soldier Sulfa

Prontosil Rubrum was the first drug to cure bacterial infections and the first of many sulfa drugs.

Page from Chimie du goût et de l'odorat
Arts & Culture

The Key to Good Taste

Eighteenth-century author Polycarpe Poncelet finds an unusual connection between music and our sense of taste.

Arts & Culture

Chemistry at Play

First sold in 1791 to a scientifically literate audience, chemistry sets have since occupied many niches—and now they are making a comeback.

Figurine of a man in rain gear carrying large fish on his back
Health & Medicine

The Man with a Fish on His Back

In the late 19th century cod-liver oil was proclaimed the cure for many ailments. One problem: the oil’s foul taste.

Albert H. Munsell
Arts & Culture

A Colorful Life

Color by numbers—no problem, thanks to Albert H. Munsell, who pioneered methods for color comparison.

Early Science & Alchemy

Women’s Business: 17th-Century Female Pharmacists

Although many were skilled in making medicinal home remedies, only a few women ran their own apothecaries, competing with males for the right to prescribe medicines.

Health & Medicine

Bad Air

Malaria and the benefits and pitfalls of government-funded biomedical research.

Health & Medicine

Salt’s Fat Chance

Are salt alternatives scarier than the substance they are replacing? A brief history of a “terrifying” food.

Inventions & Discoveries

Artificial Clouds and Inflammable Air: The Science and Spectacle of the First Balloon Flights, 1783

The first balloons, both hot-air and hydrogen powered, drew spectacular crowds and set off a craze—balloonomania!

Lafarge arsenic trial
Health & Medicine

Prefiguring the Arsenic Wars

A1828 murder trial provides insight into the moral ambiguity of forensic science and scientific testimony.

Inventions & Discoveries

Chemistry’s Outer Limits

Svante Arrhenius was one of the founders of modern physical chemistry. His later work cosmological work carried him beyond the scientific limits of many of his colleagues.

Amphetamine tablets
Health & Medicine

Amphetamine’s Missing History

David Healy reviews Nicholas Rasmussen’s On Speed: The Many Lives of Amphetamine.

Worn metal medicine tin
Health & Medicine

Aspirin: Turn-of-the-Century Miracle Drug

Aspirin has had a long history as a pain reliever—2,000 years of history. But only in the 1970s did scientists begin to uncover its chemical secrets.

John Kendrew and Max Perutz with model
Inventions & Discoveries

The Secret of Max Perutz’s Life

A personal portrait of the Nobel prize-winning crystallographer.