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Anecdotes from the Archive

Anecdotes from the Archive


Intriguing finds from Scientific American's past
Anecdotes from the Archive Home

Anecdotes from the Archive: From the basement to the blog

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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  1. Interesting finds from Scientific American’s Archive
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In 1845, Scientific American magazine made its debut on newsstands and has continued to be published ever since. Now, Nature Publishing Group and Scientific American are working to digitize all past issues of the magazine and make them available for an online subscription.

I’m in charge of checking over each issue from 1845-1948, and constantly come across amazing, intriguing, insightful and at times humorous discoveries, inventions, and science-related news stories and images. I’ve created the Anecdotes from the Archives blog to share with you some of these discoveries and would love to hear reader’s comments, reactions, and insights on the articles.This will be a regular feature here, so keep coming back every few days or so to see what else I discovered.

To kick things off, here is an interesting photograph from the May 1922 issue. Its caption reads, "A curious specimen dressed up to prove that the heads of some fishes are strikingly human in appearance."

The article entitled "Modern Miracles of Fishes" describes the recently discovered similarities between the actions of humans and fish, including sleeping, "talking," and thinking. "Fishes aren’t so far different from human beings after all. Human nature is very much the same whether in the water or out of it. Life is a business with fishes just as it is with us. Keeping the social swim in the ocean or backyard pond requires just as much maneuvering and diplomacy as it does on Fifth Avenue."

The first section of the Archive (which spans from 1910 to 1948) will go live in March 2011. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these sneak previews of what’s to come!

About the Author: Mary Karmelek is a production assistant for Nature Publishing Group and is currently working on Scientific American‘s Digital Archive Project, where she spends countless hours scouring articles and ads of decades long ago. She graduated with her M.A. in English from Fordham University in 2010 and currently resides in New York City. While her educational background is in gender and war trauma in modernist literature, Mary also has a keen interest in the historical and visual documentation of science, nature, and medicine.





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  1. 1. alk414 12:52 pm 01/7/2011

    Great find (slash interesting picture)! Can’t wait to see what else you will find and share.

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  2. 2. RHill 2:15 am 01/8/2011

    The "50, 100, 150 Years Ago" department has always been one of my favs in the paper mag. Your new blog should be that concept on steroids!

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  3. 3. Leela 12:32 am 01/9/2011

    This is so amazing. Waiting for the next.

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  4. 4. mlguzzin 5:20 pm 01/9/2011

    So interesting!! I am anticipating many other fascinating articles like these, great work, very original!

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  5. 5. Mike F. 9:11 pm 01/14/2011

    I agree with everyone above. I am also looking forward to your future articles, but I have one important question concerning the accuracy of this research. As an M.A. in English, are you not surprised that in 1922 the word "fishes" was used in the title to indicate more than one fish, rather than what I learned 60 years ago, which was that the plural of "fish" is "fish" not “fishes”! If possible, please reply.

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  6. 6. Mary Karmelek 11:35 pm 01/17/2011

    As I go through the archived articles, I do run across a grammatical or spelling error from time to time. Likewise, some of the discoveries or reports from decades or centuries ago are indeed outdated or even incorrect based on the knowledge we now have available. There is no doubt these articles and images are both entertaining and fascinating, allowing their content to outweigh their grammatical flaws. However, they also raise questions about the history of popular scientific reporting and magazine publication in general.

    You are correct, the plural of fish is fish.

    I have no clear answer as to why or how an incorrect form of the word "fish" was repeatedly used in the article, but now that my curiosity has been sparked by your comment, I plan to go back and take a closer look.

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  7. 7. gfk-55 10:23 am 01/22/2011

    Great Stuff. Being from the scientific community would love to see articles from that venue. Keep up the good work.

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  8. 8. JDahiya 4:04 am 02/10/2011

    Oh? I always thought the plural ‘fishes’ was correct when it referred to separate species, and ‘fish’ was correct when it referred to a large number of the same type (or indeterminate type).

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