Popular Science

This article is about the magazine. For the general concept of interpreting science for a broad audience, see popular science. For the 1935–1949 film series, see Popular Science (film). For similar magazines, see List of science magazines.
Popular Science
Editor Cliff Ransom
Categories Interdisciplinary
Frequency Bi-Monthly
Publisher Bonnier Corporation
Total circulation
(June 2014)
Year founded May 1872 (1872-05) (as The Popular Science Monthly)
Country United States
Based in Harlan, Iowa, U.S.
Website www.popsci.com
ISSN 0161-7370
OCLC number 488612811

Popular Science (also known as PopSci) is an American bi-monthly magazine carrying popular science content, which refers to articles for the general reader on science and technology subjects. Popular Science has won over 58 awards, including the American Society of Magazine Editors awards for its journalistic excellence in both 2003 (for General Excellence) and 2004 (for Best Magazine Section). With roots beginning in 1872,[2] PopSci has been translated into over 30 languages and is distributed to at least 45 countries.

Early history

The Popular Science Monthly, as the publication was originally called, was founded in May 1872[3] by Edward L. Youmans to disseminate scientific knowledge to the educated layman. Youmans had previously worked as an editor for the weekly Appleton's Journal and persuaded them to publish his new journal. Early issues were mostly reprints of English periodicals. The journal became an outlet for writings and ideas of Charles Darwin, Thomas Henry Huxley, Louis Pasteur, Henry Ward Beecher, Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, Thomas Edison, John Dewey and James McKeen Cattell. William Jay Youmans, Edward's brother, helped found Popular Science Monthly in 1872 and was an editor as well. He became editor-in-chief on Edward's death in 1887.[4] The publisher, D. Appleton & Company, was forced for economic reasons to sell the journal in 1900.[5]

James McKeen Cattell became the editor in 1900 and the publisher in 1901. Cattell had a background in academics and continued publishing articles for educated readers. By 1915 the readership was declining and publishing a science journal was a financial challenge. In a September 1915 editorial, Cattell related these difficulties to his readers and announced that the Popular Science Monthly name had been "transferred" to a group that wanted the name for a general audience magazine, a publication which fit the name better. The existing journal would continue the academic tradition as Scientific Monthly. Existing subscribers would remain subscribed under the new name.[6] Scientific Monthly was published until 1958 when it was absorbed into Science.[7]

The Modern Publishing Company acquired the Popular Science Monthly name. This company had purchased Electrician and Mechanic magazine in 1914 and over the next two years merged several magazines together into a science magazine for a general audience. The magazine had a series of name changes: Modern Electrics and Mechanics, Popular Electricity and Modern Mechanics, Modern Mechanics and finally World's Advance, before the publishers purchased the name Popular Science Monthly. The October 1915 issue was titled Popular Science Monthly and World's Advance. The volume number (Vol. 87, No. 4) was that of Popular Science but the content was that of World's Advance. The new editor was Waldemar Kaempffert, a former editor of Scientific American.[8][9]

The change in Popular Science Monthly was dramatic. The old version was a scholarly journal that had eight to ten articles in a 100-page issue. There would be ten to twenty photographs or illustrations. The new version had hundreds of short, easy to read articles with hundreds of illustrations. Editor Kaempffert was writing for "the home craftsman and hobbyist who wanted to know something about the world of science." The circulation doubled in the first year.[5] Currently (March 2010), the October–December 1915 issues are missing from the Google Books online archive - the only such omission besides the rolling one-year delay in making recent issues available online.

From the mid-1930s to the 1960s, the magazine featured fictional stories of Gus Wilson's Model Garage, centered on car problems.

An annual review of changes to the new model year cars ran in 1940 and '41, but did not return after the war until 1954. It continued until the mid-1970s when the magazine reverted to publishing the new models over multiple issues as information became available.

From 1935 to 1949, the magazine sponsored a series of short films, produced by Jerry Fairbanks and released by Paramount Pictures.

From July 1952 to December 1989, Popular Science carried Roy Doty's Wordless Workshop as a regular feature.

From July 1969 to May 1989, the cover and table of contents carried the subtitle, "The What's New Magazine." The cover removed the subtitle the following month and the contents page removed it in February 1990. In 1983, the magazine introduced a new logo using the ITC Avant Garde font, which it used until late 1995. Within the next 11 years, its font changed 4 times (in 1995, 1997, 2001, and 2002, respectively). In 2006, the magazine used a new font for its logo, which was used until the January 2014 issue.

In 2014, Popular Science sported a new look and introduced a new logo for the first time in 8 years, complete with a major overhaul of its articles.

Recent history

The Popular Science Publishing Company, which the magazine bears its name, was acquired in 1967 by the Los Angeles-based Times Mirror Company. In 2000, Times Mirror merged with the Chicago-based Tribune Company, which then sold the Times Mirror magazines to Time Inc. (then a subsidiary of Time Warner) the following year. On January 25, 2007, Time Warner sold this magazine, along with 17 other special interest magazines, to Bonnier Magazine Group.[10] On September 24, 2008, Australian publishing company Australian Media Properties (part of the WW Media Group) launched a local version of Popular Science. It is a monthly magazine, like its American counterpart, and uses content from the American version of the magazine as well as local material.[11] Australian Media Properties also launched www.popsci.com.au at the same time, a localised version of the Popular Science website.

In January 2016, Popular Science switched to bi-monthly publication after 144 years of monthly publication.[12]

In April 2016 it was announced that editor-in-chief Cliff Ransom would step down. It was also announced that he would remain on staff as an editor-at-large.[13]

Popular Science is headquartered in Harlan, Iowa.[14]


On March 27, 2011, Popular Science magazine sold the 10,000th subscription to its iPad edition, nearly six weeks after accepting Apple's terms for selling subs on its tablet.[15]


In August 2009, Popular Science launched a free iPhone app called PopSci.com,[16] which delivers content from their Web site. The app got a redesign and major update in November 2010. Since January 2011, Popular Science is also available for Android phones and tablets.[17]

In early 2010, Bonnier partnered with London-based design firm BERG to create Mag+, a magazine publishing platform for tablets. In April 2010, Popular Science+,[18][19] the first title on the Mag+ platform, launched in the iTunes Store the same day the iPad launched.[20] The app contains all the content in the print version as well as added content and digital-only extras. Bonnier has since launched several more titles on the Mag+ platform, including Popular Photography+ and Transworld Snowboarding+.

In July 2007, Popular Science launched the Popular Science Predictions EXchange (PPX). People were able to place virtual bets on what the next innovations in technology, the environment, and science would be. Bets have included whether Facebook would have an initial public offering by 2008, when a touchscreen iPod would be launched, and whether Dongtan, China's eco-city, would be inhabited by 2010. The PPX shut down in 2009.

Television-Future Of...

Popular Science's Future Of...[21] show premiered on Monday, August 10, 2009 on the Science Channel. The show is concerned with the future of technology and science in a particular topic area that varies from week to week. As of December 2009, a new episode is premiered every Monday.[22]

Since March 5, 2010, all Popular Science issues since the first issue of May 1872 through March 2009 (except October–December 1915 and January-June 1917) are available for free on Google Books although several 1910s/20s issues are apparently scanned from bound library volumes that had been stripped of full-page ads.[23]


Dates Publisher
1872–1900 D. Appleton & Company
1900–1901 McClure, Philips and Company
1901–1915 Science Press
1915–1924 Modern Publishing Company
1924–1967 Popular Science Publishing Company
1967–1973 Popular Science Publishing Company, subsidiary of Times Mirror
1973–2000 Times Mirror Company
2000–2007 Time Inc.
2007 – present Bonnier Magazine Group

Sources: American Mass-Market Magazines[5] The Wall Street Journal[24] and New York Post.[25]


  1. "eCirc for Consumer Magazines". Alliance for Audited Media. December 31, 2012. Retrieved June 21, 2013.
  2. Bruce V. Lewenstein (1987). "Was There Really a Popular Science" Boom"?" (PDF). Science, Technology, & Human Values. Retrieved June 24, 2016.
  3. "Top 100 U.S. Magazines by Circulation" (PDF). PSA Research Center. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
  4.  Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Youmans, William Jay". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  5. 1 2 3 Nourie, Alan; Barbara Nourie (1990). American Mass Market Magazines. pp. 385–399. ISBN 0-313-25254-8.
  6. Cattell, James McKeen (September 1915). "The Scientific Monthly and the Popular Science Monthly". Popular Science Monthly. The Science Press. 87 (3): 307–310.
  7. "AAAS and the Maturing of American Science: 1941–1970". American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved October 3, 2013.
  8. "September's Harvest of Important Books". The New York Times. August 29, 1915. p. BR312. "The Popular Science Monthly has been bought by the Modern Publishing Company of New York City…"
  9. Walter, Frank Keller (1918). Periodicals for the Small Library (2nd ed.). American Library Association. p. 24. The new Popular Science Monthly is continued from World's Advance, old version in now Scientific Monthly.
  10. "Bonnier Magazine Group Buys 18 Magazines from Time Inc". Timewarner.com. Retrieved 2012-04-01.
  11. Popular Science Launches In Australia. Archived September 29, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. "Big Changes at Popular Science". Popular Science. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  13. Popular Science iPad Edition Has Sold 10,000 Subscriptions." Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  14. Nat Ives, adage.
  15. "PopSci.com in iTunes". iTunes. October 26, 2011. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
  16. "PopSci.com for Android". play.google. January 14, 2011. Retrieved May 8, 2012.
  17. "Popular Science+ in iTunes". iTunes. February 24, 2012. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
  18. Lynda Applegate et. al. (November 30, 2012). "Bonnier: Digitalizing the Media Business" (PDF). Harvard Business School. Retrieved November 1, 2016.
  19. Fell, Jason. "How Popular Science Built Its App in 62 Days". Foliomag. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
  20. "PopSci's "Future Of" on The Science Channel | Popular Science". Popsci. August 24, 2009. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
  21. "PopSci's Future of". Science Channel. January 23, 2012. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
  22. Popular Science May 1872 including Browse all issues link. Google Books. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
  23. Rose, Matthew; Nikhil Deogun (October 20, 2000). "Time Warner to Pay $475 Million To Buy Times Mirror Magazines". The Wall Street Journal.
  24. Kelly, Keith J. (January 25, 2007). "Time Warner Sells Mags Under $300m". New York Post.
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