category_outlined / Science
Smithsonian MagazineSmithsonian Magazine

Smithsonian Magazine March 2019

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
Read Morekeyboard_arrow_down
11 Issues


access_time3 min.

Abigail TuckerThe longtime Smithsonian correspondent has excavated a long-forgotten figure, Wendell Phillips (p. 24). Dubbed America’s “Lawrence of Arabia,” the globe-trotting explorer made significant discoveries in Yemen, and left a complicated legacy. “My favorite part of reporting was discovering his voice,” she says. “As I came across the things he had written so vividly, he sort of rose up out of the desert sand before my eyes.” Tucker is the author of the New York Times best seller The Lion in the Living Room. Her next book, which will explore maternal biology, is due out next year.Evan ThomasAs a correspondent for Time, Thomas covered Sandra Day O’Connor’s confirmation to the Supreme Court in 1981. As Newsweek’s Washington bureau chief, he wrote about her retirement 25 years later. This month Random…

access_time3 min.

FROM THE EDITORSTHE GLOBAL WAR ON TERRORISM, the focus of our January/February issue, struck a chord with veterans like Jerry R. Miller of Los Angeles: “This is a treasure I would ask to be buried with if I had not already signed up for cremation.” Allen Levy of Culver City, California, said, “Your superb issue was a bitter reminder, as C.J. Chivers wrote, of what happens when a superpower misjudges its foes and then changes its mind.” Gay McMillan in Austin, Texas, promised to share the magazine “so others can experience these powerful stories and see the images that capture war’s truth.” One historic image, however, showing the corpse of an American soldier on a street in Mogadishu, gave some readers pause. Even though the photograph was awarded a Pulitzer…

access_time4 min.
plot twist!

(SOURCE MATERIAL: GETTY IMAGES)LONG BEFORE DAENERYS TARGARYEN commanded her dragons to torch armies of White Walkers in “Game of Thrones,” another strong, visionary woman sparked the revolution that makes today’s epic entertainment so profitable, if not plausible.Irna Phillips, a scriptwriter and radio actor, led the way with a bold innovation whose impact on world culture everyone underestimated: “These Are My Children,” the first daytime serial television drama, which she created 70 years ago. Phillips went on to turn her successful radio drama “Guiding Light” into a TV soap opera in 1952 and also launched “As the World Turns” (1956) and “Another World” (1964). Critics, of course, hated TV’s newest dramas. “Last week television caught the dread disease of radio—soapoperitis,” Pathfinder news magazine complained when “These Are My Children” debuted. Trade…

access_time1 min.
guiding lights

UNITED KINGDOMThe Archers1950-PRESENTThis “everyday story of country folk” was originally designed to teach modern farming methods.BRAZILBrave Women2012-2013Authorities rescued a victim of sex trafficking after her mother earned about the warning signs on this soap.MEXICOCome With Me1975-1976The show promoted adult literacy; enrollment in such classes jumped ninefold.SUDANSails of Hope2004-2006An AIDS focus more than doubled the likelihood of discussing the disease with partners.SOUTH AFRICASoul City1994-PRESENTA 1999 storyline about domestic violence prompted 180,000 phone calls to an abuse prevention hotline.AFGHANISTANNew Home, New Life1994-PRESENTA story raising awareness of land mines made listeners in affected areas half as likely to be hurt by one.RWANDANew Dawn2004-PRESENTIncreased acceptance of marriage between Hutus and Tutsis after the genocide.KENYALet’s Discuss1987-1988Focused on family planning; coincided with falling fertility rates, from 6.3 to 4.4 children per woman.PAKISTANSammi2017Tackled sex discrimination with storylines…

access_time5 min.
america’s first poster child

Mary Mildred Williams again takes center stage in Jessie Morgan-Owens’ new book Girl in Black and White. (MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY)ON FEBRUARY 19, 1855, Charles Sumner, the Massachusetts senator, wrote his supporters about an enslaved 7-year-old girl whose freedom he had helped to secure. She would be joining him onstage at an abolitionist lecture that spring. “I think her presence among us (in Boston) will be a great deal more effective than any speech I could make,” the noted orator wrote. He said her name was Mary, but he also referred to her, significantly, as “another Ida May.” Sumner enclosed a daguerreotype of Mary standing next to a small table with a notebook at her elbow. She is neatly outfitted in a plaid dress, with a solemn expression on her face,…

access_time1 min.
publish or perish

WITH NEARLY six million articles in English alone, Wikipedia is the world’s go-to resource for facts on topics from “the arts” to “berserk llama syndrome.” Still, there’s one area where the crowd-sourced reference falls short: the achievements of women, who make up less than 19 percent of Wikipedia’s biographies. But there might just be a 19th-century solution to this 21st century problem: prosopographies, now-obscure collections of biographical sketches of prominent men and women.Wikipedia’s gender imbalance reflects the site’s contributors, who are about 90 percent male, but it is also a result of its “notability” standard, says Michelle Moravec, a historian at Rosemont College. Under the rule, Wikipedia subjects need to have received “significant coverage” in published sources, historically a high bar for women. “Notability is not a neutral concept,” Moravac…