To celebrate Scientific American’s 165th anniversary, our web page has been redesigned with the original logo — just for this weekend. At the top of the page you can download the PDF of our very first issue.
In that first issue of The Scientific American, dated August 28, 1845, you can read about how Morse’s telegraph is likely to affect commerce with “our western states.” It is not clear what they meant by that; none of what one would call western states today existed at the time. (Texas joined the union later that year; California gained statehood in 1850).
The issue also includes mentions of improved railroad cars and lithographic printing, some poems, and a sort of ode to chemistry (”There is no art of science by which a man can accomplish a work of creation with so much verity, as by chemistry”) and how it changes the nature of substances. This was, of course, written long before Mendeleev proposed his periodic table of the elements.
An editorial describes the guiding principles of the new paper, and how it will “furnish the intelligent and liberal workingmen, and those who delight in the development of those beauties of Nature, which consist in the laws of Mechanics, Chemistry, and other branches of Natural Philosophy — with a paper that will instruct while it diverts or amuses them, and will retain its excellence and value, when political and ordinary newspapers are thrown aside and forgotten.”
Some of the principles would probably be underwritten by the editors of today’s magazine as well (”we shall exercise a full share of independence, in the occasional exposure of ignorance and knavery, especially when we find them sheltered by arrogance and aristocracy”). Others maybe not (”We shall advocate the pure Christian religion, without favoring any particular sect”).
No Nobel laureates would grace the magazine’s pages for many decades to come; the prize itself wasn’t instituted until the dawn of the 20th century.