50 Years Ago

  1. In 2019, scientists found a way to store human livers for more than a day at subzero temperatures without the organs freezing (shown). The technique could eventually help ease the shortage of donor organs, saving thousands of lives.
    Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, scientists hoped freezing donor organs would boost transplants

    In the 1970s, biologists hoped to freeze organs so more could last long enough to be transplanted. Scientists are now starting to manage this feat.

  2. an illustration of a dinosaur skeleton partly buried by debris

    50 years ago, the dinosaurs’ demise was still a mystery 

    In 1972, scientists blamed dinosaur biology for the reptiles’ demise. Years later, researchers ID’d the real killer: an apocalyptic asteroid.

  3. an illustratiion of a molten Earth's core

    50 years ago, a new theory of Earth’s core began solidifying

    In 1972, scientists proposed that Earth’s core formed as the planet came together. Fifty years later, that theory is generally accepted, though many mysteries about the core remain.

  4. a photo of juvenile electrioc eels in water

    50 years ago, eels’ navigation skills electrified scientists

    Excerpt from the June 24, 1972 issue of Science News

  5. Astronaut Donald Slayton embraces cosmonaut Aleksey Leonov

    50 years ago, the United States and Soviet Union joined forces for science

    In 1972, U.S. and Soviet leaders agreed to work together on science. Now, Russia’s war in Ukraine is straining that decades-long partnership.

  6. a photo of the Atacama Cosmology Telescope scanning the night sky with the Milky Way overhead

    50 years ago, scientists had hints of a planet beyond Pluto

    In 1972, calculations from Halley’s comet offered evidence of another planet. Today’s astronomers are still searching for a Planet Nine.

  7. a photo of a hand scratching red scaly skin on a person's elbow. Only the person's torso and arms are in frame.
    Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, scientists were seeking the cause of psoriasis

    In the 1970s, scientists found a link between a chemical messenger and psoriasis, a complex inflammatory skin disorder.

  8. an aerial photo showing a solar farm. There are rows and rows of solar panels grouped into squares as far as the image stretches. The sun is low in the sky.

    50 years ago, the future of solar energy looked bright

    In the 1970s, scientists and engineers were coming around to the idea of “farming” the sun’s energy on a large scale.

  9. a photo of a jojoba shrub branch of with green acorn shaped seeds hanging off of it

    50 years ago, scientists thought a desert shrub might help save endangered whales

    Fifty years ago, scientists sought a sustainable alternative to prized oil from endangered sperm whales.

  10. a photo of a person in a hyperbaric chamber
    Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, oxygen was touted as a potential memory loss treatment

    In 1972, researchers were studying whether hyperbaric chambers could help reverse senility. Today, science is still piecing together clues.

  11. a photo of human sperm

    50 years ago, freezing sperm faced scientific skepticism

    In 1972, scientists debated the long-term viability of frozen sperm. Fifty years later, children have been conceived with sperm frozen for decades.

  12. a photo of the demolioshed Arecibo Observatory
    Planetary Science

    50 years ago, Arecibo got an unprecedented view of Venus’ surface

    Over its 57-year lifetime, Arecibo’s radar system measured the mountains around Venus’ middle, studied the textures of many rocky bodies in outer space and more.