Distillations magazine

Unexpected Stories from Science’s Past

Everyday Monsoons

Washes and other gaps in the Sonoran Desert.


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

Inventions & Discoveries

Setting the Table

In the 19th century a young Italian outside the chemistry mainstream played a part in the creation of the first periodic table.

Arts & Culture

Graphic Knowledge

Mining magazines, newspapers, comic books, and movies to catch a glimpse of science as imagined by earlier generations.

David Sarnoff
Inventions & Discoveries

The General

David Sarnoff wanted to be a journalist; instead he created commercial broadcasting and helped kick off the color revolution in television.

Health & Medicine

Taking Control

Insulin was first used to treat diabetes in the 1920s. Since then doctors have used a multitude of tests to screen for the disease.

Health & Medicine

The Devil in a Little Green Bottle: A History of Absinthe

Absinthe, an alcoholic drink introduced to France in the 1840s, developed a decadent though violent reputation.

Old newspaper illustration of a man conducting a scientific experiment
People & Politics

Palmer the Poisoner

In 1856 William Palmer was convicted in Victorian England’s trial of the century, a case that pulled chemical analysis into the courts.

Arts & Culture

Weaving Cultures

In exile, Navajo created new designs for their rugs and blankets using the new synthetic dyes.

Inventions & Discoveries

A First Lady of Chemistry

Mildred Cohn fought prejudice to become a successful Jewish female chemist in an less-than-welcoming world.

People & Politics

Birmingham Toast

Famed British caricaturist James Gillray targets famed scientist Joseph Priestley after the devastating Priestley Riots.


Manufacturing the Weather

With dynamite and cannons, Robert St. George Dyrenforth hoped to end drought in the late 19th century. This vision of weather and climate control seized the imagination of scientists and businessmen.

Inventions & Discoveries

Science by the Scoop

The science behind a cool, refreshing treat—ice cream.

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.