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150 Years of Advancing Science: A History of AAAS
Origins: 1848-1899


Dust jacket from an early issue of Science, 1880s.
Science magazine, linked inextricably to AAAS today, originated independently of the Association.  Its founder was John Michels, a New York journalist, who approached Thomas Edison for financing.  Edison invested nearly $10,000 in the magazine in 1880-81, but Michels could neither achieve consistent quality nor gain enough subscribers to pay the bills and Edison withdrew his support at the end of 1881. Michels secured temporary financial support from Alexander Graham Bell in late 1881, but by March 1882, publication of Science ceased

The first issue of the reborn Science was published on February 9, 1883, under the editorship of Samuel H. Scudder.  A librarian and nationally-known entomologist (as well as a relative of Hubbard's), Scudder got the journal off to a strong start; within a year it had gained over 2,000 subscribers. 
The first issue of the reborn Science, February 9, 1883.
One of the main purposes of Science was to report news of scientific societies.  The magazine was thus linked to AAAS not only through the individuals involved, but also through its extensive coverage of AAAS meetings.  Henry Rowland's "Plea for Pure Science," a famous 1883 address before the physics section in which he argued the case for elitism in science, was only a small part of the coverage of that year's meeting. 

Scudder resigned in late 1884 and was succeeded by his young and unknown assistant, N. D. C. Hodges.  Losses mounted over the next several years as Hodges sought unsuccessfully to make Science self-sufficient.  Among the signs of Hodges's increasing desperation was the introduction of advertising for patent medicines in the late 1880s, a move disapproved by former sponsors and some readers. 

By March of 1894, despite a list of 3,000 subscribers and Hodges's efforts to solicit funds, Science was once again in extremis.  In November 1894, with the agreement of Bell and Hubbard, ownership was transferred to James McKeen Cattell, a professor of psychology at Columbia University.  Cattell subsequently worked out an agreement with AAAS, turned Science into America's premier scientific journal, and edited it for the next 50 years.

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