Distillations magazine

Unexpected Stories from Science’s Past

People & Politics

Science in a world of rules, regulations, and war

Color photo of two men in suits, one without a shirt, photographed walking in the dark
People & Politics

Valery Fabrikant and Science’s Ethical Limits

Is it right to publish research from an unrepentant murderer?

A boy cutting into the bark of tree
People & Politics

The Human Price of American Rubber

Segregated lives of privilege, pride, and peril on Firestone’s Liberian plantations.

Satirical cartoon of Darwinism using a circus theme
People & Politics

The Case Against Charles Darwin

How the investigation into a grisly murder shocked 19th-century France and framed the scientist as an accomplice.

Close-up portrait of an older man with his eyes closed
People & Politics

In the Shadow of Oppenheimer

How popular narratives of the atomic age obscure the bomb’s first victims.

Black and white family photo
People & Politics

Yue Xiong’s Great Leap

A promising young man from a politically marked family navigates China’s era of Maoist upheaval.

Collage showing natural history illustrations and newspaper clippings
People & Politics

The Problem of Piltdown Man

Seduced by a racist idea, archaeologists hyped an outrageous hoax.

Collage with illustrations and photographs with a heredity theme
People & Politics

Losing the Genetic Lottery

How did a field meant to reclaim genetics from Nazi abuses wind up a haven for race science?

People & Politics

Percy Julian and the False Promise of Exceptionalism

Reflecting on the trailblazing chemist’s fight for dignity and the myths we tell about our scientific heroes.

People & Politics

Georg Bredig: Scientist, Humanist, and Holocaust Survivor

Restoring the legacy of a physical chemistry pioneer.

People & Politics

American Fevers, American Plagues

How yellow fever outbreaks in the early United States anticipated much of what we lament about the COVID-19 era.

People & Politics

Confronting America’s Food Emergencies

Can a White House conference muster the political will needed to address the nation’s food insecurity and obesity crises? A summit from 1969 offers clues.

People & Politics

Mouse Heaven or Mouse Hell?

Biologist John Calhoun’s rodent experiments gripped a society consumed by fears of overpopulation.

People & Politics

The Dark Stars of Marietta Blau

A scientist pitted hard work and ingenuity against the constraints she faced as a Jewish woman.

Photo of woman exiting building surrounded by news cameras
People & Politics

Why Did Annie Dookhan Lie?

Forensic science can be a powerful crime-fighting tool, but misdeeds, dubious methodologies, and bogus claims threaten its reputation—and the reputation of science as a whole.

Black and white photo portrait of woman in uniform
People & Politics

Lou Henry Hoover, Lost in Translation

Though often celebrated, the adventurous First Lady never received full credit for her scientific accomplishments.

Black and white photo of man and woman in a lab
People & Politics

For the Sake of Science

Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner navigated a life of science through war and peace.

People & Politics

The High-Flying, Death-Defying Discovery of Helium

During the War of 1870, astronomer Jules Janssen risked his life for scientific prestige and French patriotism.

People & Politics

Escape from Nazi Terror

Chemist Max Bredig’s race to save family and friends from catastrophe.