ART AND POPULAR SCIENCE

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Aaron Draper Shattuck (American, 1832–1928), Monument Mountain, 1862. Graphite, heightened with white gouache, on paper. 12 1/2 x 19 3/16 in. Clark Art Institute, 1975.19
 
In 1845, American artist and prolific inventor Rufus Porter (1792–1884) founded Scientific American, a publication written for a general audience that covered groundbreaking developments in science and technology. Still in circulation today, the journal was first distributed as a broadsheet subtitled “The Advocate of Industry and Enterprise, and Journal of Mechanical and Other Improvements.” It soon shifted its focus from inventions and patents to discoveries in astronomy, geology, and medicine, among other scientific fields of public interest. Illustrations—initially woodcuts and later halftones (a process for reproducing photographs using small dots of variable size in relief to convey tone)—often accompanied articles, depicting phenomena ranging from the earth’s tides to newly discovered animal specimens. By 1853, Scientific American circulated to more than 30,000 readers weekly.
 
Several artists included in the exhibition contributed or subscribed to Scientific American in the late nineteenth century. Renowned for his landscape photographs of Yosemite, Eadweard Muybridge made the cover of the journal’s October 19, 1878 issue with his photographic studies exploring the science of a horse in motion. In April 1870, William Bradford published an article about his eighth and final expedition to the Arctic, an adventure narrative detailing his capture of a narwhal. Published notes from the Wheeler Survey, a series of early 1870s expeditions that resulted in topographic maps of the southwestern United States, mentioned the landscapes documented by Timothy O’Sullivan. Richard Proctor, author of The Moon: Her Motions, Aspect, Scenery, and Physical Condition (1873), contributed numerous articles about astronomy in the years before founding his own popular science magazine, Knowledge (1881–1918). 
 
Scientific American also occasionally featured and reviewed art. Diverse practitioners represented in the exhibition, such as Arnold Böcklin, Gustave Doré, Jules Ferdinand Jacquemart, Max Klinger, and Étienne Léopold Trouvelot, were mentioned among its pages. Aaron Draper Shattuck, who devoted himself to animal husbandry, horticulture, and meteorology after abandoning his artistic career, was a known subscriber to Scientific American—his grandchildren described seeing it organized in huge stacks in his home.
 
Curious about and inspired by contemporary theoretical deductions and discoveries, artists who engaged with Scientific American took into consideration the expanding content of the journal while shaping their styles of depicting nature’s extremes.