The Hard-Drinking 19th-Century Naturalists Who Aspired to Find and Classify Everything on Earth

At the Smithsonian, William Stimpson Created a New American Scientific Culture Around the Megatherium Club

In some respects, Washington, D.C., in the 1850s was an unlikely place to usher in a golden age of American natural history. Philadelphia and Boston had long been the traditional centers of American science, with the founding of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia in 1812 and the Boston Society of Natural History in 1830. The nation’s capital was still viewed as a provincial Southern town. The Smithsonian Institution, founded in 1846 after a bequest by British chemist and mineralogist James Smithson, was tasked with “the increase and …

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California Isn’t the Center of the World—and That’s a Good Thing | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

California Isn’t the Center of the World—and That’s a Good Thing

For Centuries, the State’s Distance From Traditional Seats of Power Has Forced It to Innovate

The Center of the World is in California. But California isn’t the center of the world.

This seeming paradox goes a long way towards explaining how California became so central to …

Why Molokai Is the Least Developed of Hawai‘i’s Islands | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Why Molokai Is the Least Developed of Hawai‘i’s Islands

Even Centuries Before Captain Cook’s Arrival, Its Resources Were Exploited by Outsiders

The first thing that strikes a visitor to the Hawaiian island of Molokai is how empty it is. From the approach of the propeller-driven airplane that brings you from bustling …

Why Americans Love Andy Griffith’s Toothy Grin | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Why Americans Love Andy Griffith’s Toothy Grin

In the Post-Civil Rights Era, Images of Southerners as ‘Slow-Witted Rubes’ Soothed White Anxieties

Today, when many Americans think of the “good old days”—when neighbors knew each other and the world seemed safer and simpler—they often conjure visions of the 1950s and early 1960s, …

Why California Should Close Failing School Districts | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Why California Should Close Failing School Districts

Southern San Diego County's Sweetwater District Cannot Escape Mismanagement and Corruption on Its Own

School has begun again for the 40,000-plus students of Sweetwater Union High School District. But the district’s governance crisis never seems to end.

Sweetwater rarely makes the statewide news, but …