September 2008 cover
CategoriesHistory, science, arts, nature
Total circulation
(June 2016)
First issueApril 1970; 54 years ago (1970-04)
CompanySmithsonian Institution
CountryUnited States
Based inWashington, D.C., U.S.

Smithsonian is a science and nature magazine (and associated website,, and is the official journal published by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., although editorially independent from its parent organization. The first issue was published in 1970.[2] The Smithsonian holds events such as the American Ingenuity Awards, Future Con, and Museum Day.


The history of Smithsonian began when Edward K. Thompson, the retired editor of Life magazine, was asked by the then-Secretary of the Smithsonian, S. Dillon Ripley, to produce a magazine "about things in which the Smithsonian [Institution] is interested, might be interested or ought to be interested."[3]

Thompson would later recall that his philosophy for the new magazine was that it "would stir curiosity in already receptive minds. It would deal with history as it is relevant to the present. It would present art, since true art is never dated, in the richest possible reproduction. It would peer into the future via coverage of social progress and of science and technology. Technical matters would be digested and made intelligible by skilled writers who would stimulate readers to reach upward while not turning them off with jargon. We would find the best writers and the best photographers—not unlike the best of the old Life."[3]

In 1973, the magazine turned a profit for the first time. By 1974, circulation had nearly quadrupled, to 635,000, and it reached the one million milestone in 1975—one of the most successful launches of its time. In 1980, Thompson was replaced by Don Moser, who had also worked at Life, and circulation reached upwards of two million, in turn, by Carey Winfrey upon his retirement in 2001. Michael Caruso succeeded Carey Winfrey in 2011, and served as editor-in-chief until 2019.[4] Since that time Debra Rosenberg and Terence Monmaney have served as executive editors.[5]

Events held

Smithsonian American Ingenuity Awards

Every year since 2012, the magazine has sponsored the American Ingenuity Awards, a recognition of innovation in the arts, sciences and technology. Winners have included Bryan Stevenson, Elon Musk, Lin-Manuel Miranda, OK Go, John Krasinski, Dave Eggers, Aziz Ansari, Rosanne Cash, Jeff Bezos, Fred Armisen, Bill Hader and David Lynch.

Presenters have included Stephen Hawking (twice), Stephen Colbert, David Byrne, Herbie Hancock, Erin Brockovich, Ruben Blades, Bill Nye, Art Spiegelman and Senator Al Franken.

The American Ingenuity Award itself was created by the artist Jeff Koons.[6]

Future Con

Future Con, formerly The Future is Here, is an annual conference for students and young people interested in science and science fiction, held as part of Washington D.C.'s Awesome Con.[citation needed]

Museum Day

Not to be confused with International Museum Day.

Smithsonian arranges Museum Day, when museums in all 50 U.S. states offer limited free admission. In 2018, over 1,400 museums participated. [7][8]

The offer is free admission for the ticket holder plus one guest, and this ticket is specific to the chosen museum only.[9] The intention is one ticket per person. This is in contrast to the International Museum Day, when participating museums generally offer entirely free admission throughout the day.


Notable past and current contributors to Smithsonian have included:


  1. ^ "AAM: Total Circ for Consumer Magazines". Alliance for Audited Media. Archived from the original on December 16, 2013. Retrieved October 27, 2016.
  2. ^ "Top 100 U.S. Magazines by Circulation" (PDF). PSA Research Center. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 15, 2016. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Winfrey, Carey (October 2005), Noxious Bogs & Amorous Elephants: Smithsonian's birth, 35 years ago, only hinted at the splendors to follow, Smithsonian, archived from the original on February 2, 2013
  4. ^ "Michael Caruso Steps Down as Editor in Chief of Smithsonian Magazine". Archived from the original on September 29, 2022. Retrieved November 4, 2022.
  5. ^ "Smithsonian Magazine". Archived from the original on October 7, 2022. Retrieved November 4, 2022.
  6. ^ "Smithsonian American Ingenuity Awards". Archived from the original on February 25, 2016. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
  7. ^ Brownell, Matt (September 23, 2011). "Free Museum Day: This Saturday!". TheStreet. Archived from the original on March 15, 2023. Retrieved March 15, 2023.
  8. ^ "Museum Day: Free admission to nearly 1,500 US museums". September 19, 2018. Archived from the original on March 16, 2023. Retrieved March 16, 2023.
  9. ^ "| History, Travel, Arts, Science, People, Places Smithsonian Magazine". Archived from the original on March 16, 2023. Retrieved March 16, 2023.