Smithsonian Magazine

Smithsonian Magazine April 2020

Smithsonian Magazine takes you on a journey through history, science, world culture and technology with breathtaking images from around the world.

United States
Smithsonian Institute
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11 Números

en este número

2 min.

“She has been, and will continue to be, inspiration to nurses everywhere.” Natural Leader Gene Stratton-Porter is another pioneering woman almost lost to history (“The Legend of Limberlost,” March 2020). She used her wealth and privilege to break barriers and blaze a trail for women in the arts, and her conservation efforts are still bearing fruit. What a remarkable life in an era when women were still underestimated. —Sarah McPherson | Glennville, Georgia Kathryn Aalto’s story makes this pioneering naturalist, and the environment she cherished, come vividly to life. In her novel A Girl of the Limberlost, Stratton-Porter gave us Elnora, an ideal model for the wonderful teenagers of today who are fighting so hard to protect our environment. As it happens, I’ve been writing a musical based on the book. So much of…

2 min.
hello, world

IN EARLY 1970, an advertisement for a new magazine promised it would examine the circumstances that shape the life of a human being—“this harassed biped,” who faces “staggering problems… from oil spills to famine.” Wildlife was in decline. Pollution was on the rise. An energy crisis loomed. “Our articles will probe man’s disasters,” the ad continued, “and join the battle for his improvement.” Never mind the paternalistic “man,” “battle” wasn’t quite the right word, either: The magazine would always strive to be nonpartisan. Still, the first issue popped up right in the midst of the cultural havoc of the first Earth Day, and many of the concerns and ideals behind that nationwide protest also inspired the editorial team who launched Smithsonian. Justice was one guiding ethic. In the inaugural issue, the pioneering…

2 min.
picture window

IT WOULD PRESENT art, since true art is never dated, in the richest possible reproduction.” That’s how Edward K. Thompson, the founding editor of Smithsonian, once described the magazine staff’s approach to pictures. So when the current art and photography editors buried themselves in the archives in preparation for this anniversary issue, it came as no surprise that we found lots of wonderful art. What did surprise us, however, was just how artistic, how modern and how forward-looking the images in the first 50 years truly are. Out of tens of thousands of images published in these pages over the last half-century, we selected a few hundred, hoping to find one that would sum up the magazine’s unique visual history. An absurdly difficult task, to be sure. Would it be an…

6 min.
the case against the car

GORDON LIGHTFOOT and the Broadway cast of Hair performed. Barry Commoner and Ralph Nader spoke. But the most bizarre event at the University of Michigan’s teach in the month before the first Earth Day was a mock legal trial for a 1959 Ford sedan. About 1,000 people gathered at high noon on March 11, 1970, on the grassy quad at the center of the Ann Arbor campus to watch the blue-and-white clunker face charges of “murder of the American public, crossing state lines to pollute, inciting traffic jams, creating physical and psychological dependence, and discriminating against the poor.” This last charge reflected newly urgent concerns about highways, which tended to be built in lower-income neighborhoods, and resulted in polluting and sometimes even bulldozing those communities. “THE AUTOMOBILE IS ESSENTIAL TO THE MAINTENANCE…

1 min.
the road more traveled

Sales of electric vehicles in the United States grew by 81% from 2017 to 2018. Between 1970 and 2018, the total number of miles that Americans drove rose by 177% In 2017, transportation accounted for 29% of U.S. GHG emissions, topping other sectors (electric power, agriculture and industry) for the first time since the EPA started tracking this data in 1990. 1973 saw the lowest fuel efficiency in the last 70 years, with passenger cars averaging 13.4 mpg—no better than the original Model T Ford of 1908. TAILPIPE EXHAUST IS CLEANER THAN ever, and fuel efficiency is up, lifted lately by hybrid and electric vehicles. Yet cars’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions aren’t falling because there are more Americans—and they’re driving more. Data analysis by Emilio Leanza ALAMY; SOURCES: PEW TRUSTS, EDISON ELECTRIC INSTITUTE, THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION…

3 min.
cloud control

AS CLIMATE CHANGE churns up extreme weather, would-be geoengineers are proposing revolutionary new technologies to minimize the effects of global warming: Reflect sunlight into space with orbiting mirrors! Absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide with artificial trees! Bulk up sea ice by cooling it with giant pumps! Even proponents acknowledge that such extravagant measures would be risky, assuming they could be implemented. But tinkering with the planet’s thermostat isn’t an entirely new idea, as you can see from these past schemes—all ingenious, some downright explosive. BATTLE PLAN Soldiers had long observed that rain seemed to follow battles, and common wisdom attributed this apparent link to the smoke and noise caused by munitions. In August 1891, Robert Dyrenforth, a Washington patent lawyer and retired Union Army major, took this idea to its logical conclusion in…