About: History & Archives
150 Years of Advancing Science: A History of AAAS
AAAS and Science: 1900-1940
The sale of Science to James McKeen Cattell for $500 in November 1894 began an era of dramatic change for both the magazine and AAAS. Cattell became the dominant figure in AAAS over the next half-century and, arguably, the most significant figure in AAAS history. Appointed professor of psychology at Columbia University in 1891, Cattell had earned his Ph.D. at the University of Leipzig in Germany. Although he was not well-known to most AAAS leaders, he had both an excellent reputation among psychologists and experience as an editor when he took over Science.
By drawing on his many contacts for reports on current research and news of the scientific community, Cattell quickly reestablished Science as a viable journal. In early 1896, publication of a detailed account of Roentgen's discovery of x-rays, which had been published in Germany only a month earlier, gave Science's reputation a major boost. Although Science was not the first American journal to report on x-rays, it quickly became the journal with the broadest coverage of this hot new field.
In 1900, following a recommendation made by a AAAS committee six years earlier, permanent secretary Leland O. Howard and Cattell agreed to make Science the official AAAS journal. Science agreed to publish AAAS's official papers, news, and abstracts, while Cattell retained editorial control and ownership. AAAS members received Science without an increase in their $3 a year dues. AAAS paid Cattell $2 per member, instead of the going rate of $5 a year. Although the deal initially reduced the income of both parties, AAAS hoped it would increase membership while Cattell saw increasing membership as a means of boosting circulation and advertising revenues. The gamble paid off. Between 1900 and 1906, AAAS membership grew from less than 2,000 to over 5,000.
Cattell was not satisfied simply with Science. In 1915, he established The Scientific Monthly, to "review scientific progress and advocate scientific educational and social reforms." The journal was made available to AAAS members in place of or in addition to Science, but it never replaced Science as AAAS's primary publication. AAAS purchased it from Cattell in 1943 and merged it into Science in 1958.