A science journalist since Sputnik went up in 1957, Victor McElheny has covered such different topics as science in Antarctica for The Charlotte Observer, science and politics in Europe for Science magazine, the Apollo moon missions for the Boston Globe, Silicon Valley and biotechnology for the New York Times, and has focused on molecular biology since the early 1960s. After doing biographies of Edwin Land of Polaroid and James Watson of DNA fame, he wrote Drawing the Map of Life, a history of the human genome project for Basic Books in New York. He was founding director of Banbury Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and of the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships at MIT.
One hundred fifty years ago May 10, around mid-day, railroad promoters from two coasts clumsily drove the final spikes of America’s first transcontinental railroad near Promontory Point, Utah. Two of the... Read more »
The fiftieth anniversary of Apollo 8’s orbital visit to the moon underlines the importance of emotion and changes of perception in the history of innovation.
Then and later, commentators said that... Read more »
A momentous step into the atomic age happened around 3:20 p.m. Central War Time on Dec. 2, 1942, seventy-five years ago, in a vast, unheated space (a former squash doubles court)... Read more »
At exactly 7 a.m. on Nov. 9, 1967, the roof of the press viewing stand at Cape Canaveral began shaking from what was happening more than three miles from us. The... Read more »
In these days of internet disruptions of complex systems like medical care and even elections, our obsession with data security is swelling. We’re all too aware of how signals from myriad... Read more »
In the world of betting on the future, life sciences find themselves in a storm, with huge opportunities, like CRISPR gene editing, and immense obstacles, such as soaring drug prices, that... Read more »
Sixty years ago, on the Fourth of July, 1956, the American President gained a capacity that has never been lost: clear pictures from above of Russia’s thermonuclear weapons delivery system. Because... Read more »
While we party upstairs in our micro-age of whirling electrons and dancing apps, there’s some rumbling down in the basement. In a new book called Lights Out, the television journalist... Read more »
Today, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, after more than nine years, 3 billion miles, and a brief view of Jupiter’s moon Io, is scheduled to capture the first close-up pictures from the... Read more »
Fifty years ago, on June 28, 1965, an exotic device named Early Bird made it possible to transmit an uninterrupted live television show across the Atlantic from Europe to America or... Read more »
Seventy-five years ago today, science took a seat next to the American presidency. It was a move of immense and continuing consequences for innovation in this country and across the world,... Read more »
One of the sharpest controversies about our nation’s history is who gets top credit for the titanic American public-private partnership that won World War II with an avalanche of production. Some... Read more »
Few phrases have rung louder in the history of innovation than “Moore’s Law,” the amazingly potent guess, published 50 years ago on April 19, that the capacity of electronic circuits would... Read more »
Let’s hear it for Stephanie Kwolek, a determined, observant, and playful chemist who died last year at the age of 90. She is the inventor-heroine of an artificial fiber stronger than... Read more »
In staccato, stand-up comic style, Peter Thiel brought his version of libertarianism to Harvard, a notable cheering section for positive government. Last Wednesday, a packed lecture hall heard the investor and... Read more »
Biotechnology leaders—and the rest of us—should “count to 10” as they read the March 19 call in Science to consider limits on using revolutionary new gene-editing techniques for germline gene therapy.... Read more »
Crisp statements of a case to a prepared, if skeptical, mind have often changed the history of innovation. Perhaps the most critical example of this in the 20th Century... Read more »
When people made lists of leading innovators 75 years ago, they saw a landscape very different from today’s for putting discoveries, techniques, money, workers, and customers together to get something new... Read more »
Today, as 150 years ago, for an innovation to happen, the idea it rests on must be understood by the people who hear it.
On the 8th of February... Read more »
Today is the 225th anniversary of a milestone in the history of American innovation.
On January 9, 1790, the 35-year-old secretary of the Treasury of the United States sent... Read more »