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Smithsonian Magazine

Smithsonian Magazine

July/August 2021

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

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United States
Smithsonian Institute
R 56,95
R 285,34
11 Issues

in this issue

3 min
ask smithsonian

Q:Why did James Smithson leave his fortune to the United States and not to institutions in his native England? — Helen Scott | New York City THE SMITHSONIAN’S founding donor never even visited the United States. His father was a duke and his mother was a distant relative of King Henry VIII, but because they never married, James Smithson wasn’t treated well by class-obsessed English society. He did manage to amass a fortune, and he left it all to his nephew, Henry James Hungerford, with one caveat: If his nephew died childless (which he did in 1835, six years after Smithson’s own death), the money would go “to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of…

2 min
crescent city memories

Hurricane Katrina was bearing down on New Orleans, so Chandra McCormick and Keith Calhoun packed their photography archive—thousands of slides, negatives and prints the couple had amassed over three decades documenting African American life in Louisiana. They filled a dozen plastic bins, which they stacked high on tables. Then they drove to Houston with their two children, planning to be gone for maybe two weeks. Ten weeks later, McCormick and Calhoun returned home to… devastation. “All there was, was waterlogged,” Calhoun says. “Imagine the smell—all that stuff had been in that mud and mold.” They figured they had lost everything, including the archive, but their teenage son urged them not to throw it away. They put the archive into a freezer, to prevent further deterioration. With an electronic scanner they…

5 min
collect, wait, study

IN MAY 1835 IN Willamette Falls, Oregon, an eager young Philadelphia naturalist named John Kirk Townsend collected a female California condor. It’s one of the oldest specimens among the Smithsonian’s 625,000 preserved bird skins, the third-largest collection in the world. A bouquet of tags attached to the condor’s legs, along with the original label in Townsend’s copperplate handwriting, shows it has become only more valuable to science over the decades. Every natural specimen is full of information about the time and place from which it came, but it also suggests a story about the people who discovered or collected it. Townsend’s condor, as well as more than 130 other bird specimens that he pre pared and that are kept at the National Museum of Natural History, are part of a little-known…

3 min
true grit

Lanzarote is home to 500 native plant species but few mammals. The dromedary, first imported in 1405, is a notable exception. ON SEPTEMBER 1, 1730, the island of Lanzarote began to tremble. “An enormous mountain emerged from the ground, with flames coming from its summit,” a priest living on the island recalled of the first in a series of eruptions that continued on and off for six years. Rivers of lava poured over the island. Villages burned. Dead fish floated off the shore. Asphyxiated cattle fell to the ground. The night sky glowed blue and red. Lanzarote today is the easternmost of the Canary Islands, an autonomous territory of Spain. Its volcanoes have been dormant for nearly two centuries, but visitors can still see the striking geology the eruptions left behind. “The…

4 min
listening to stonehenge

STONEHENGE REMAINS profoundly mysterious. We still aren’t certain who built it, or why they aligned its geometry with the summer solstice, or brought the smaller stones from 180 miles away, or what range of purposes it served. But every year scientists learn more about the great stone enigma on Salisbury Plain. Most recently, a team from the University of Salford, in Manchester, and English Heritage, the charitable trust that manages Stonehenge, made a breakthrough about the monument’s acoustical wonders. Despite the lack of a roof, the research team has found, the original circle of 157 standing stones (only 63 complete stones remain today) once acted like a sound chamber. For people in the inner sanctum 4,000 years ago, the placement of stones would have amplified and enhanced human voices and music…

1 min
don’t be puzzled

Across 1 Tumults 5 Human behavior subj. 8 Exposé journalist such as Jacob Riis 11 Supporting a tax on the 1 percent, maybe 12 Migrate to L.A. via Santa Fe, say 13 Inner trio between Q and U 16 Three-letter eponym in the ice cream aisle 17 Housing manager, for short 18 Swanky parties 21 One of millions stacked in Val Shively’s store 22 No longer interested in 23 Ike Eisenhower’s mil. rank 24 Archaeological setup in Saqqara, Egypt 25 New sport for the Olympics in 2021 28 Technical feature of note within Stonehenge 31 Upper-rightmost island of the Canary Islands 32 Read the first letters of each clue in order, and you might exclaim this afterward 33 Not named, for short Down 1 Simon & Garfunkel’s “I ___ Rock” 2 Organic fertilizer 3 Numerical prefix with-genarian 4 Earmuffs, parkas, gloves, goggles, etc. 5 Hearty, as a friendship 6 Usual offering on “Saturday Night Live” 7…