Smithsonian Magazine December 2021

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
11 期号


“without human empathy … attempts at colonization will fail.”

TWITTER: @SmithsonianMag INSTAGRAM: @smithsonianmagazine FACEBOOK: smithsonianmagazine World War II Hero Please ask Steven Spielberg to bring “The Righteous Defiance of Aristides de Sousa Mendes” to the big screen. What a magnificent person Sousa Mendes was. In tragic times, the best and worst of humanity rises to the top and sinks to the bottom. —D J W | Well Read “New Chapter” was fabulous and inspiring! I love the innovation and trend-setting of the Memphis Public Library system. What a shining example for others to follow. Kudos to Keenon McCloy and her staff and volunteers. May this spur on libraries in many other cities and states to broaden their services and conceive new ideas to serve and educate their communities. —Diane Busch | North Canton, Ohio The Red Planet The most striking phrase in “Welcome to Mars” for me was,…

a house full of ideas

THE MUSEUM of the past must be set aside, reconstructed, transformed … into a nursery of living thoughts,” George Brown Goode, the first curator of the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building (AIB), wrote in 1889. “It should be a house full of ideas.” AIB opened in 1881 as the first United States National Museum with a radical new philosophy. Museums could do more than research and showcase; they could teach and inspire as well. Thousands flocked to the Mall’s newest building to see firsthand the inventions that were changing the world: the electric light bulb, the steam locomotive, Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. AIB pioneered many of the Smithsonian features we now consider essential: descriptive labels to explain what people saw, new ways of organizing displays to tell stories, and even “living…

the caregiver

HALF A CENTURY BEFORE she founded the American Red Cross, Clara Barton had her first nursing experience at age 11, when her older brother fell off a barn roof. For nearly two years she remained at his bedside, applying leeches and dispensing medicine. He made a full recovery from serious cranial trauma. Born on Christmas Day 200 years ago, in North Oxford, Massachusetts, Clara was a timid child. “In the earlier years of my life I remember nothing but fear,” she wrote in her 1907 autobiography. But her brothers trained her to be “a superb rider and a crack shot with a revolver,” writes historian S.C. Gwynne, and soon she longed to be a soldier. Instead, she began teaching school when she was 17 and eventually founded schools of her own,…


DOROTHEA DIX AT THE START OF THE war, the only official Army nurses were men. Dix, a school-teacher and fiery prison reformer in Massachusetts, traveled to Washington in April 1861 on a mission to change that. Soon she was recruiting the Union’s new legion of female nurses, bringing more than 3,000 to the Union cause. HARRIET TUBMAN BORN INTO SLAVERY in Maryland, Tubman began working as a Union nurse in 1862 at the request of Massachusetts Gov. John Andrew, serving in the field from South Carolina to Florida and at hospitals in Virginia. She led troops during a South Carolina raid that liberated more than 700 enslaved people. And she served as a spy. MARY ANN BICKERDYKE KNOWN AS THE “Cyclone in Calico,” she oversaw the construction of 300 field hospitals. When one person complained…

beyond realism

HER CAREER LASTED only a decade, but Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) painted more than 500 canvases, including moody landscapes, wry self-portraits and careful studies of children, old people and the residents of a local poorhouse. She approached even her humblest subjects with a rare respect, says Ingrid Pfeiffer, curator of a new retrospective at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, on view until February. “She gave value to each person she painted,” Pfeiffer says. Yet her intense, unsentimental depictions of rural people held little appeal to art buyers at the end of the Victorian era. Indeed, during her life Modersohn-Becker, whose upper-middle-class Bremen family encouraged her artistic education in London, Berlin and Paris, sold just four paintings. It was only after she died at 31, from complications of childbirth, that her work…

pictures that deceive

TWO YEARS AGO, Noelle Martin discovered someone had made a “deepfake” video about her. Martin is a 26-year-old Australian law graduate who has lobbied governments and corporations to take action against the online harassment of women. Now, someone on the internet had decided to attack her via a technique that uses artificial intelligence to swap one person’s face onto another’s body. Experts studying this phenomenon have found that well over 90 percent of deepfake videos involve faces swapped into pornographic scenes—the vast majority being women, most often celebrities but also politicians, activists or non-famous women. That’s what someone had done with Martin. The video, she figured, was an attempt to get her to stop her advocacy work by shaming her. “It was absolutely weaponized,” she told me recently. When she saw…