The Popular Science Digital Archive Lets You Explore Every Science and Technology-Filled Edition Since 1872


Pop­u­lar Sci­ence is the fifth old­est con­tin­u­ous­ly-pub­lished month­ly magazine—a long way of say­ing that the mag­a­zine has done a fine job of main­tain­ing a niche in a crazi­ly fast-paced indus­try. Found­ed in 1872 by sci­ence writer Edward Youmans to reach an audi­ence of edu­cat­ed laypeo­ple, Pop­u­lar Sci­ence today com­bines reviews of the lat­est gad­gets with sto­ries about inno­va­tion in design and sci­ence. It’s an orga­nized mish­mash of news about “the future now,” lib­er­al­ly defined. A recent issue includ­ed sto­ries about the military’s use of 3‑D print­ing and an astro­physi­cist who ques­tions whether Shake­speare wrote the entire Folio.

With that kind of breadth, the magazine’s archives cov­er just about every­thing. And it’s easy to browse through back issues, dat­ing all the way back to 1872, since the mag­a­zine teamed up with Google to put a search­able archive on the web. The ear­li­est issues, like this one from Feb­ru­ary 1920, fea­ture col­or cov­ers that bring to mind sci­ence fic­tion with a fas­ci­na­tion for the imag­ined future.

One of the cool things about the mag­a­zine is its equal atten­tion to new and old tech­nol­o­gy. Search for “scis­sors” and you will find this 1964 arti­cle about the mechan­ics of sharp­en­ing your own scis­sors. The archive also offers anoth­er search tool that returns results in a visu­al word fre­quen­cy grid, which is espe­cial­ly cool if you click the “ani­mate” but­ton. Any social his­to­ri­ans out there able to explain why the word “scis­sor” would appear so often in the mid-20th cen­tu­ry?

Inter­est­ing­ly, although the word “inter­net” dates back to the 1960s, the word did­n’t appear in the magazine’s pages until 1989.

Peri­od adver­tise­ments are includ­ed, which adds to the fun. This issue from Sep­tem­ber, 1944 includes a house-adver­tise­ment on the table of con­tents page call­ing for all col­lec­tors of back issues to con­sid­er sur­ren­der­ing them for the war cause. “There’s a war going on and this is no time for sen­ti­ment,” the ad urges. “Grit your teeth and dig out those stacks of back num­bers. Then turn them over to your local paper sal­vage dri­ve!”

Kate Rix writes about edu­ca­tion and dig­i­tal media. Vis­it her web­site: .

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Cor­nell Launch­es Archive of 150,000 Bird Calls and Ani­mal Sounds, with Record­ings Going Back to 1929

The Alan Lomax Sound Archive Now Online: Fea­tures 17,000 Record­ings

NASA Archive Col­lects Great Time-Lapse Videos of our Plan­et

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Comments (7)
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  • John Lyell says:

    I’ve recent­ly become aware of the Shut­ter­hand Gen­er­a­tor I’d like to more about it.

    • rmanlee says:

      I pur­chased the plans for the Shut­ter­hand Gen­er­a­tor. I wish I had spent the mon­ey else­where. Sim­ply put, the Shut­ter­hand Gen­er­a­tor is an alter­na­tor for use in wind gen­er­a­tors. The video was extreme­ly mis­lead­ing.

    • Anthony says:

      I was think­ing of get­ting the plans for this gen­er­a­tor. How­ev­er, from what you say, it is not what it is adver­tised. Accord­ing to Mr. Shut­ter­hand, once it is put togeth­er and start­ed in motion it runs by itself and pro­duced 100%+ of the elec­tric­i­ty you need to run your house. Plus you’ll be able to sell the excess back to the elec­tric­i­ty co., because it is that good. You don’t need to plug it into any­thing to start it or keep it run­ning. Once it is hooked up you just sit back and relax. You tell the elec. and oil co.‘s maybe next month or not. Is it that good? How much elec­tric­i­ty does it pro­duce? I’d like to know.

  • JOHN MANTOVA says:

    What is the truth about the Shut­ter­hand gen­er­a­tor. Is it only an alter­na­tor. did the guy who bought it and did not like it get all his mon­ey back. Has any­one else tried one. In fact has Any­one had suc­cess with any of the adver­tised devices. I am on a low ‚VERY, income and 71 . My OW would kill me if I bought one and it did­n’t work. I have heard that most of, them; includ­ing; Tes­la’s are only toys. I am look­ing to save £500 ayear on my bills. Any help out there ?

  • Terry Carson says:

    The Shut­ter­hand man­u­al is indeed total­ly unclear about how the device is sup­posed to be used (but at least I got my mon­ey back).

  • Charles Tedder says:

    Where can I see or get a copy to look at. I would like to read the man­u­al if pos­si­ble. Is a copy on any of Pop­u­lar Sci­ence’s Mag­a­zines? Where would I look to find it?

  • Doug Garr says:

    I as an edi­tor at Pop­u­lar Sci­ence from 1971 to 1973. It was my first job in jour­nal­ism. I don’t have a very good archive of my own work. I’ve been look­ing for a piece I wrote on the Hand­ford nuclear waste facil­i­ty, some­time in the 1980s when I was a free­lancer. It was called “Too Hot to Han­dle,” and it was nom­i­nat­ed for a Nation­al Book Award. I was won­der­ing if you could help me find it, as a friend has asked me to attend the pre­miere of a doc­u­men­tary on this sub­ject in Jan­u­ary. Thanks.

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