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Picks from the Past

March 1909:
  • The Darwin Celebration
    The New York Academy of Sciences celebrates the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Charles Robert Darwin and the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of “The Origin of Species” at the American Museum of Natural History.
  • January 1914:
  • The Blind in the American Museum
    The American Museum furnishes an instructor for classes of blind children who are allowed to “see” with their hands.  By Agnes Laidlaw Vaughan
  • February 1915:
  • Animals of Central Brazil
    Together with mention of the geographical work of the Roosevelt-Rondon South American expedition in exploring the “River of Doubt.”  By Theodore Roosevelt
  • October 1916:
  • Sharks—Man-eaters and Others
    With suggestions that Americans turn to economic account some of the smaller species of the Atlantic Coast.  By Hugh M. Smith
  • April 1917:
  • Individuality, Temperament, and Genius in Animals
    From such research we learn to appreciate human individuality, and to realize that any future conscious control of human life must come through a study of the conditions under which varied types of temperament will develop the highest character and the greatest genius.  By Robert M. Yerkes and Ada W. Yerkes
  • May 1918:
  • My Life as a Naturalist
    With a presentation of various first-hand data on the life histories and habits of the big game animals of Africa.  By Theodore Roosevelt
  • April-May 1919:
  • Thomas Jefferson’s Contributions to Natural History
    His effort sent out the Lewis and Clark exploring party into the unknown West. Recognition and honor are given today to the expedition’s leader, Meriwether Lewis.  By John S. Patton
  • December 1919:
  • The Coming Back of the Bison
    The disappearance of the American bison to the verge of extermination constitutes one of the greatest and most striking catastrophes to our wild life that have occurred in the experience of modern man.  By C. Gordon Hewitt
  • January-February 1921:
  • Glimpses of Early Museums
    By Frederic A. Lucas
  • March-April 1921:
  • Insects as Food
    How they have augmented the food supply of mankind in early and recent times.  By John S. Patton
  • May-June 1921:
  • How Diamonds Are Polished
    By H. P. Whitlock
  • November-December 1921:
  • Rains of Fishes
    Do fishes fall in rain from the sky?  By E. W. Gudger
  • September-October 1922:
  • The Elephant in Captivity
    As the elephant walks beside its keeper, it lowers its pillar-like legs deliberately as though conscious of the crushing force of their descending weight.  By W. Henry Sheak

  • Geology of New York City and Its Vicinity
    By Chester A. Reeds
  • May-June 1923:
  • Monkeys Trained as Harvesters
    Instances of a Practice Extending from Remote Times to the Present.  By E. W. Gudger
  • November-December 1923:
  • Mounting Horse Skeletons to Exemplify Different Gaits and Actions
    A Glimpse behind the Scenes at the American Museum.  By A. Katherine Berger
  • May-June 1924:
  • Profiteers of the Busy Bee
    Observations on the honey guides of Africa.  By James P. Chapin
  • January-February 1925:
  • The Hoop Snake Story
    With some theories of its origin.  By Karl Patterson Schmidt
  • January-February 1926:
  • The Ordeal of Getting Civilized
    Troubles of an Indian treading the white man’s path.  By Gilbert L. Wilson
  • July-August 1926:
  • Personal Experiences at Eclipse Expeditions
    With a supplement in color of the three solar eclipses seen in the United States in 1918, 1923, and 1925.  By S. A. Mitchell
  • May-June 1927:
  • North to 88 and the First Crossing of The Polar Sea
    Navigating the Northwest Passage by airship in 1926.  By Lincoln Ellsworth

  • Hydras as Enemies of Young Fishes

    In August, 1902, a sudden epidemic occurred among the black-spotted trout fry in the hatchery of the United States Fish Commission at Leadville, Colorado.  By E. W. Gudger
  • The Antiquity of Man in America
    A presentation of new evidence of man’s antiquity in America.  By J. D. Figgins
  • May-June 1928:
  • “Robinson Crusoe’s Children”
    The strange story of nine english mutineers who, more than a hundred years ago, took up their abode with their native Tahitian wives, on a desert island in the South Seas.  By H. L. Shapiro
  • November-December 1929:
  • A Collector in the Land of the Birds of Paradise
    Collecting brilliantly colored birds among the mountains of New Guinea—The problems and difficulties of an ornithologist in the savage interior of one of the greatest of islands.  By Rollo H. Beck
  • December-January 1930:
  • Tails
    Caudal appendages adapted by nature to the needs of Her creatures.  By Charles E. Burt
  • January-February 1931:
  • Living With the Natives of Melanesia
    How ethnological work is carried on by representatives of the American Museum among primitive people of the South Seas.  By Margaret Mead
  • March-April 1931:
  • The Fate of the Rash Platybelodon
    A prehistoric death trap yields its spoils—persistent exploration by the Central Asiatic Expeditions in eastern Mongolia at last reveals the most favorable conditions under which remains of ancient man might be found.  By Roy Chapman Andrews
  • January-February 1932:
  • A Tenderfoot Explorer in New Guinea
    Reminiscences of an expedition for birds in the primeval forests of the Arfak Mountains  By Ernst Mayr
  • March-April 1932:
  • Meshie: The Child of a Chimpanzee
    A creature of the African jungle emigrates to America.  By H. C. Raven
  • March-April 1933:
  • A Day in Patagonia
    Collecting remains of prehistoric animals in southernmost South America.  By George Gaylord Simpson
  • March-April & May-June 1933:
  • Floating Gold: The Romance of Ambergris
    By Robert Cushman Murphy
  • November-December 1933:
  • Man—500,000 Years From Now
    Trends and influences now at work in changing or modifying the physical characteristics of civilized man.  By H. L. Shapiro

  • Further Adventures of Meshie
    A chimpanzee that has lived most of her life in a New York suburban home.  By H. C. Raven
  • October 1934:
  • Patagonian Oasis
    Even amid the wind-swept desolation of southern Argentine a haven may occasionally be found.  By George Gaylord Simpson
  • April 1935, September 1936, & September 1937:
  • José
    The life of a Barro Colorado coati (in three parts).  By Frank M. Chapman
  • September 1935:
  • To the Strange “Buttons”
    The story of the Bowdoin-MacMillan Arctic Expedition of 1934 to Cape Mugford, Labrador, and the Button Islands of the Northwest Territories.  By Alfred O. Gross
  • October 1935:
  • Astronomical Fiction
    Amusing errors in astronomy to be found in literature.  By Frank C. Jordan
  • February 1936:
  • Bird Voices in the Southland
    Making "talkies" with an all star cast of native American birds.  By Albert R. Brand
  • February 1937:
  • The Indoor Explorer
    Radio listeners were recently astounded by the announcement, broadcast from a Chicago station, that they were about to hear a singing mouse.  By D. R. Barton
  • February 1938:
  • What Are They Thinking?
    Characteristic facial expressions, postures, and movements are the key to an understanding of animal psychology and the soul of animal art.  By Charles R. Knight
  • May 1939:
  • A Fossil Comes to Life
    One of the most important zoological discoveries of the present century gives us a glimpse at the closest living relative of our fish-like ancestors.  By Edwin H. Colbert
  • Thunder in His Footsteps
    The ghost of the most gigantic animal that ever walked the earth is conjured to life when a lone fossil hunter tracks down the first true footprints left by this stupendous creature, and thrills to the romance of a great discovery.  By Roland T. Bird
  • November 1939:
  • The Pearl of Allah
    The giant clam yielded its treasure only after slaying a native diver trapped when its great jaws snapped shut. Worshipped as the gift of Allah, the 14-pound pearl was finally presented to the author by a Mohammedan chief whose son he saved from death.  By Wilburn Dowell Cobb
  • February 1940:
  • Animal Fables
    How many commonly accepted superstitions about animals could you confidently deny?  By W. Ley
  • March 1940:
  • The Story of Heraldry
    Heroic symbols have everywhere marked Man's more adventurous activities since the dawn of time, and though coats of arms declined with Knighthood, the modern airplane may possibly bring about a new Heraldry to symbolize achievement in a new age.
  • October 1940:
  • Museum Quiz
    “Information, please” is the request which comes 25,000-strong each year to one of the world's unique clearinghouses of information. An inside view of the amazing curiosity of the American public.  By Roy Chapman Andrews
  • February 1941:
  • A Dinosaur Walks into the Museum
    Scientific detective work sheds new light on the habits and appearance of the most gigantic animals that ever roamed the earth, when the biggest footprints ever found are placed on display.  By Roland T. Bird
  • The Massacre of St. Valentine’s Day
    Strange things are bound to happen when an ancient Roman Fertility Rite is inducted into European society.  By D. R. Barton
  • June 1941:
  • Scylla Was a Squid
    Charybdis may have been a whirlpool, but modern science now recognizes the other half of Homer’s legendary partnership in maritime disaster as possibly the first mention in literature of the giant squid.  By W. Ley
  • One-Man Explorer
    Without benefit of base camps and elaborate supply lines, Harry Raven has ventured alone into some of the world's least known jungles.  By D. R. Barton
  • September 1941:
  • The Truth About Termites
    Labeled public enemies number one by exterminating racketeers, these “white ants” (which aren’t ants at all) are seldom destructive in civilized communities and definitely constructive in nature. Incidentally, some species can’t digest wood any better than we can.  By Frank E. Lutz
  • September 1942:
  • Drum Talk Is the African’s “Wireless”
    How the African peoples were able to send out their messages of joy or sorrow over jungle and valley long before Europeans invented the radio  By A. I. Good
  • December 1942:
  • How They Got Their Names
    Few of us realize what a fascinating hodgepodge of inappropriate names many of our well-known plants and animals carry, or how often when we call them by their right names other people will not know what we are talking about.  By Roy L. Abbott
  • June 1943:
  • Every Man His Own Robinson Crusoe
    A novel program to teach our South Sea fighters how to fare for themselves in time of need by use of ingenious native methods.  By Kenneth P. Emory
  • September 1943:
  • Nine-Day Wonders
    The story of one of North America’s greatest natural disasters, with a popular explanation of how and why hurricanes roar up out of the breathless doldrums one to twenty times each year to destroy what lies in their path.  By Hobart E. Stocking
  • May 1946:
  • Lost Continents
    Ever since the days of the Greeks, people have tried to prove that thriving civilizations once existed on huge islands that have since sunk beneath the sea. Here is a scientific view of the question.  By L. Sprague de Camp
  • June 1946:
  • Bones in the Brewery
    A Paleontologist’s Rendezvous with History and Prehistory in St. Louis.  By George Gaylord Simpson
  • September 1946:
  • Man and His Baggage
    All along the rough road from savagery to civilization, man has found it an increasingly complex problem to carry the things needed for life.  By Clark Wissler
  • September, October, November 1946:
  • Letters
    Correspondence to Natural History from September 1946 and several follow-up letters from the subsequent two issues.
  • May 1947:
  • Popcorn
    To many it is only a “circus treat,” but to the scientist, popcorn is a key to important questions concerning early man in America.  By Edgar Anderson
  • September 1947:
  • Mystery of Singing Sands
    One of the strangest tales of the desert happens to be true—sands that roar so loud one has to shout to be heard. A yet unsolved riddle of Nature!  By E. R. Yarham
  • December 1947:
  • Payday for Primates
    A report about monkey business.  By Frank A. Beach
  • February 1948:
  • The Watch that Lincoln Gave
    The little-known story from the life of the Great Emancipator, which takes the reader to the far-away isles of the Pacific and to the plight of an American seaman who was about to be killed and eaten.  By Wilmon Menard
  • March 1948:
  • Meet the Curator
    A candid view of the man who answers your scientific questions and who travels to all corners of the world to get information and specimens for public exhibition  By C. L. Hay
  • October 1950:
  • Beasts Before the Bar
    Quaint court scenes of yesteryear show that ignorance of the law was once no excuse even for an animal.  By Frank A. Beach
  • September 1951:
  • What Makes the Soviet Character?
    Today the safety of all civilization may hinge upon our ability to develop ways through which the behavior of the members of any large modern society can be made intelligible to the members of other societies.  By Margaret Mead
  • October 1951:
  • The Crowninshield Elephant
    The surprising story of Old Bet, the first elephant ever to be brought to America.  By George G. Goodwin
  • January 1954:
  • An Anteater Named Teddy
    Even as a pet, his single interest was in ants, and he never quite got used to a tame chimpanzee.  By Lilo Hess
  • November 1954:
  • The Big Sleep Is On
    Those who suffer either from insomnia or cold feet may view with envy the many creatures who are now dreaming away the snowy months.  By Will Barker
  • September 1955:
  • Mystery of the Prehistoric Stone Balls
    Why should hundreds of perfectly shaped spheres, ranging in diameter from a few inches to eight feet, be scattered through the jungles southwestern Costa Rica?  By Eleanor Lothrop
  • June 1955:
  • Last of the Tlingit Sealers
    Harpoons fly and an oldtime Indian recalls the dangerous days of yore as a band of hunters on the Northwest coast put out for a final go at the fur seal.  By Karl W. Kenyon
  • April 1957:
  • Go Fly a Kite
    Though people joke about it as a toy, the kite has carried men aloft physically as well as spiritually and helped pave the way to mastery of the air.  By Joseph J. Cornish III
  • November 1957:
  • Q’eros: A Study in Survival
    In this barren part of Peru, people still use the Inca system of keeping records, the quipu.  By John Cohen
  • November 1958:
  • Darwin’s Worms
    In his last years, the great man studied annelid “intelligence”: the questions he raised have engaged a generation of biologists. By Georg Zappler
  • December 1958:
  • Scrutinizing the Microcosm
    Electron microscopy has shown the biologist a complex, new world.  By Huntington Sheldon
  • November 1959:
  • The Wild Rat
    This animal’s behavior has given it a reputation for cleverness.  By Anthony Barnett
  • March 1960:
  • Wetland Saga
    Flood, drought, freezing, and predation are the risks for a marsh muskrat population.  By Paul L. Errington
  • August-September 1966:
  • Shakespeare in the Bush
    An American anthropologist set out to study the Tiv of West Africa and was taught the true meaning of Hamlet.  By Laura Bohannan
  • December 1969:
  • Eating Christmas in the Kalahari
    With a postscript, the people of /Xai/xai thirty years on.  By Richard Borshay Lee
  • March 1971:
  • An Octopus Trilogy
    After a decade of sleuthing, it can be safely said that the gigantic mass of tissue that washed up on the beach at St. Augustine in 1896 was the remains of an octopus that must have measured, from the tip of one tentacle to the tip of the opposite tentacle, 200 feet. Yes, Victoria, 200 feet.  By F.G. Wood and Joseph F. Gennaro Jr.
  • January 1974:
  • Size and Shape
    The immutiable laws of design set limits on all organisms.  By Stephen Jay Gould (his first “This View of Life” column)
  • October 1974:
  • One Man’s Meat Is Another’s Person
    Humans may taste good, but most societies are a long way from cannibalism.  By Raymond Sokolov
  • November 1975:
  • Turkey in the Slaw
    His origins are confused, his intelligence questionable, but this not-so-all-American bird's welcome at the dinner table is undisputed.  By Raymond Sokolov
  • October 1976:
  • America’s National Parks: Their principles, purposes, and prospects
    By Joseph L. Sax
  • December 1976:
  • A Pelican Synchrony
    Survival of chicks is a reward for meshing breeding activity; good fishing is a reward for nesting in colonies.  By Fritz L. Knopf
  • August 1981:
  • I’d Rather Be a Messenger
    New York City’s bicycle messengers prefer the independence and excitement of dodging traffic to the routine of a nine-to-five job.  By Jack M. Kugelmass ~ Photographs by Yoav Levy
  • November 1985:
  • The Case of the Vanishing Caterpillar
    A butterfly larva’s fate depends on who finds it first—its ant friends or ant foes.  By Gary N. Ross
  • December 1986:
  • Our Gang, Ostrich Style
    The big bird practices communal child care and even kills lions in defense of newly hatched chicks. By Lewis M. Hurxthal
  • June 1988:
  • The Halloween Mask Episode
    A gull researcher learns the barefaced truth about western gulls.  By Larry Spear
  • September 1988:
  • Why Do Tommies Stott?
    This gazelle jumps not for joy but to communicate.  By Tim Caro
  • November 1989:
  • The Creation Myths of Cooperstown
    Or why the Cardiff Giants are an unbeatable and appropriately named team.  By Stephen Jay Gould
  • December 1990:
  • Columbus, My Enemy
    A Caribbean chief resists the first Spanish invaders.  By Samuel M. Wilson
  • A Seahorse Father Makes a Good Mother
    In courting, a big male often wins—and then he gets bigger.  By Amanda Vincent
  • March 1991:
  • The Sounds of Seal Society
    By Jeanette A. Thomas
  • November 1991:
  • The Arizona Revisited
    Divers explore the legacy of Pearl Harbor.  By Daniel J. Lenihan
  • March 1992:
  • Bound for Deep Water
    Leatherback turtles can pursue their prey half a mile straight down.  By Scott A. Eckert
  • August 1992:
  • Winning by a Neck
    Some trees succeed in life by offering giraffes a meal of flowers.  By Johan T. du Toit
  • October 1992:
  • Last of the Umiaks
    For hunting walrus among the ice floes of the Bering Strait, the Inuit's spacious and resilient skin-covered boats have no equal. By Fred Bruemme
  • January 1993:
  • Species in a Bucket
    For a few frightening moments, there was only myself standing between life and extinction.  By Edwin Philip Pister
  • April 1993:
  • Der Ring des Bubbalungen
    Borrow unto others before they borrow unto you.  By Roger L. Welsch
  • March 1994:
  • How to Catch a Gator
    Or, the Limits of Professional Ecology.  By Whit Gibbons
  • April 1994:
  • The Devil’s Corkscrew
    Like the modern prairie dogs, the extinct beaver Palaeocastor may have had extensive networks of colonies.  By Larry D. Martin
  • September 1994:
  • No Pain, No Game
    For the Mayoruna and Matsés of the Amazonian forest, preparing for the hunt can be an ordeal.  By Katharine Milton
  • June 1996:
  • Little Criminals
    A true story of a lonely plant ecologist and his mischievous neighbors.  By Truman P. Young
  • November 1997:
  • Penguins under the Sun
    Long adapted to natural challenges, the jackass penguins of southern Africa fall victim to human activities on land and sea.  By Yolanda von Heezik and Philip Seddon
  • June 1998:
  • Voracious Evolution
    Discoveries of more complete remains of cartilagenous fishes have shed new light on the prehistory of sharks and their relatives.  By John G. Maisey and Ray Troll
  • November 1999:
  • Undertakers of the Deep
    To an array of creatures on the ocean floor, the death of a whale is a gift of life.  By Cheryl Lyn Dybas
  • September 1999:
  • In Living Colors
    “Living jewels adorned with polished scales of gold, encrusting lapis lazuli, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and amethysts.”  By Joe Levine
  • October 1999:
  • Thornbug to Thornbug
    A scientist eavesdrops on the surprisingly sophisticated conversations of insects.  By Rex Cocroft
  • For more recent articles, please see Featured Stories.

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