Scientific American is one of the oldest and most serious popular-science magazines.
Scientific American has been published continuously since August 28, 1845 when it was founded by Rufus Porter. In its first issue it styled itself "The Advocate of Industry and Enterprise, and Journal of Mechanical and other Improvements." On the front page of that first issue was the engraving of "Improved Rail-Road Cars". The commentary under the illustration gives the flavour of its style at the time.
- "There is, perhaps no mechanical subject, in which improvement has advanced so rapidly, within the last ten years, as that of railroad passenger cars. Let any person contrast the awkward and uncouth cars of '35 with the superbly splendid long cars now running on several of the eastern roads, and he will find it difficult to convey to a third party, a correct idea of the vast extent of improvement. Some of the most elegant cars of this class, and which are of a capacity to accommodate from sixty to eighty passengers, and run with a steadiness hardly equalled by a steamboat in still water, are manufactured by Davenport & Bridges, at their establishment in Cambridgeport, Mass. The manufacturers have recently introduced a variety of excellent improvements in the construction of trucks, springs, and connections, which are calculated to avoid atmospheric resistance, secure safety and convenience, and contribute ease and comfort to passengers, while flying at the rate of 30 or 40 miles per hour."
Throughout its early years Scientific American put much emphasis on reports of what was going on at the patent office. It reported on a broad range of inventions that includes perpetual motion machines, an 1849 device for buoying vessels by one Abraham Lincoln, and the universal joint which now finds place in nearly every automobile manufactured. Any issue from the 19th century gives a fascinating insight into the progress of the industrial revolution in that time.
Whilst a well-respected magazine, it is not a peer-reviewed scientific journal in the sense of Nature or Communications of the ACM; rather, it is a forum where scientific discoveries are explained to a wider audience (which often includes scientists working in other fields).
Notable achievements and features have included:PBS channel called Scientific American Frontiers.
See also: New Scientist