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.

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

An 1828 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.

SmithKline & French Pharmaceuticals
Health & Medicine

Understanding Pharmaceutical Relations and the Limits of Regulatory Reform

Interactions between the pharmaceutical industry, the biomedical sciences, and legislators is a longstanding hot topic in Washington.

Health & Medicine

The Lingering Heat over Pasteurized Milk

The history of pasteurization and the controversy surrounding it demonstrate the complexity of milk as a chemical substance.

An early advertisement for cellophane
Inventions & Discoveries

Sealed with a Wrap

Cellophane celebrates its 100th anniversary with a comeback, after losing out to cheaper imitations in the 1970s.

Black and white photo of an award ceremony with group of people
People & Politics

Social Scientist

Assessing J. Robert Oppenheimer as a leader.

Inventions & Discoveries

Scientia Vitis: Decanting the Chemistry of Wine Flavor

Scientists have only recently begun to investigate the chemical components that give wines their distinct and complex flavors.

People & Politics

Christmas at Hanford

How 50,000 people tried to maintain a normal existence while living in isolation at the largest the Manhattan Project site.

Inventions & Discoveries

Science and Celebrity: Humphry Davy’s Rising Star

Part experimenter and part entertainer, Humphry Davy was a 19th-century icon.