50 Years Ago

  1. moon

    The sterile moon may still hold hints of how life began on Earth

    50 years ago, scientists found no signs of life on the moon. Today, lunar mission regulations may be relaxed in light of that fact.

  2. supernova

    50 years ago, scientists didn’t know where heavy elements came from

    Five decades ago, scientists suspected ordinary supernovas created heavy elements. Now we know they don’t, but merging neutron stars do.

  3. inequality graph

    50 years ago, income inequality was severe in the U.S. It still is

    In 1969, lower-income households tended to be nonwhite and in the U.S. South. That still holds true today.

  4. smoke stacks

    50 years ago, scientists puzzled over a slight global cooling

    Five decades ago, scientists were puzzled over a slight dip in global temperatures. Today we know it was just a blip, and that Earth’s climate is warming thanks to industrial activity over the last century.

  5. melanoma
    Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, cancer vaccines were a dream

    Researchers are now prodding the immune system to fight cancer, reviving the longtime dream of creating cancer vaccines.

  6. A map of Gondwanaland

    50 years ago, an Antarctic fossil pointed to Gondwanaland’s existence

    Fifty years ago, fossils from Antarctica helped seal the deal that the southern continents were once connected in one, giant landmass called Gondwanaland.

  7. a photo of a person smoking marijuana
    Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, scientists warned of marijuana’s effects on the unborn

    In 1969, scientists warned about prenatal marijuana exposure. Researchers today are still untangling drug’s effect on fetuses.

  8. administering a polio vaccine
    Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, polio was still circulating in the United States

    The world has never been closer to eradicating polio, but the disease could come roaring back where vaccination is spotty.

  9. gecko underside

    50 years ago, scientists thought they knew why geckos had sticky feet

    50 years ago, scientists thought gecko feet had suction cups that allowed the animals to stick to surfaces. Today we know tiny hairs do the job.

  10. bubble chamber

    50 years ago, Fermilab turned to bubbles

    The National Accelerator Laboratory, now called Fermilab, used to have a bubble chamber to study particles. Today, most bubble chambers have gone flat.

  11. thalidomide
    Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, a drug that crippled a generation found new life as a leprosy treatment

    In 1969, a drug that crippled a generation found new life as a treatment for leprosy.

  12. two photos of fetal lambs in artificial wombs

    50 years ago, lambs survived but didn’t thrive inside artificial wombs

    Artificial wombs to support preemie babies are closer to reality.