Century of Science

  1. black and white image of Luis Miramontes in a lab coat

    Luis Miramontes helped enable the sexual revolution. Why isn’t he better known?

    By synthesizing norethindrone, one of the first active ingredients in birth control pills, Luis Miramontes helped usher in the sexual revolution.

  2. Marguerite Vogt in a lab at the Salk Institute
    Health & Medicine

    By taking on poliovirus, Marguerite Vogt transformed the study of all viruses

    She pioneered the field of molecular virology with her meticulous lab work and “green thumb” for tissue culture.

  3. skulls and other fossils in drawers

    Fossils and ancient DNA paint a vibrant picture of human origins

    Paleoanthropologists have sketched a rough timeline of how human evolution played out, centering the early action in Africa.

  4. a row of radio telescopes at the Very Large Array

    How radio astronomy put new eyes on the cosmos

    A century ago, radio astronomy didn’t exist. But since the 1930s, it has uncovered cosmic secrets from planets next door and the faint glow of the universe’s beginnings.

  5. illustration of the letter p with a less than symbol and .05 above scientists doing various calculations

    How the strange idea of ‘statistical significance’ was born

    A mathematical ritual known as null hypothesis significance testing has led researchers astray since the 1950s.

  6. black and white image of swirls that represent subatomic particles
    Particle Physics

    How particle detectors capture matter’s hidden, beautiful reality

    Old and new detectors trace the whirling paths of subatomic particles.

  7. image of stars in the constellation Carina
    Planetary Science

    A century of astronomy revealed Earth’s place in the universe

    The past century of astronomy has been a series of revolutions, each one kicking Earth a bit farther to the margins.

  8. illustration of a baby
    Science & Society

    What 20th century science fiction got right and wrong about the future of babies

    A century of science has pushed the boundaries of human reproduction even beyond writers’ imaginations.

  9. Hans Berger, inventor of the electroencephalogram
    Health & Medicine

    How Hans Berger’s quest for telepathy spurred modern brain science

    In the 1920s, psychiatrist Hans Berger invented EEG and discovered brain waves — though not long-range signals.

  10. black and white photo of a man in a cap with glasses leaning over a tabletop device while another man looks on

    A WWII submarine-hunting device helped prove the theory of plate tectonics

    With a boost from World War II, the fluxgate magnetometer became a portable and invaluable tool.

  11. image of J. Ernest Wilkins Jr.

    Mathematician J. Ernest Wilkins Jr. was a Manhattan Project standout despite racism

    Black scientist J. Ernest Wilkins Jr. made nuclear physics calculations that helped build an atomic bomb.

  12. illustration of nerve cells
    Health & Medicine

    Controlling nerve cells with light opened new ways to study the brain

    A method called optogenetics offers insights into memory, perception and addiction.