The history of Smithsonian began when Edward K. Thompson, the retired editor of Life magazine, was asked by the then-Secretary of the Smithsonian, S. Dillon Ripley, to produce a magazine "about things in which the Smithsonian [Institution] is interested, might be interested or ought to be interested."
Thompson would later recall that his philosophy for the new magazine was that it "would stir curiosity in already receptive minds. It would deal with history as it is relevant to the present. It would present art, since true art is never dated, in the richest possible reproduction. It would peer into the future via coverage of social progress and of science and technology. Technical matters would be digested and made intelligible by skilled writers who would stimulate readers to reach upward while not turning them off with jargon. We would find the best writers and the best photographers—not unlike the best of the old Life."
In 1973, the magazine turned a profit for the first time. By 1974, circulation had nearly quadrupled, to 635,000, and it reached the one million milestone in 1975—one of the most successful launches of its time. In 1980, Thompson was replaced by Don Moser, who had also worked at Life, and circulation reached upwards of two million, in turn, by Carey Winfrey upon his retirement in 2001.
Smithsonian magazine provides in-depth analysis of varied topics within a diverse range of scientific areas, and adds fascinating photography to supplement its comprehensive features. The monthly magazine looks at the topics and subject matters researched, studied and exhibited by the Smithsonian Institution - science, history, art, popular culture and innovation - and chronicles them for its diverse readership.
Notable past and current contributors to Smithsonian have included: