Final part in a series.
How appropriate that a publication whose launch was dominated by photography of the technological wonder of the day should end its run with an equally impressive tribute to mankindâ€™s latest technological accomplishment. As noted earlier, LIFEâ€™s final issue was released a scant three weeks after Apollo 17, NASAâ€™s last trip to the moon, and in the magazineâ€™s concluding essays it found a fitting kinship with that mission.
Both LIFE and the Apollo program remained physically strong to the last â€“ many regard Apollo 17 as the most successful of all the moon landings (12/29/72), and while LIFE was awash in red ink, its failures arguably related more to mismanagement than to substantive textual issues (in 1969 the magazine had reached an all-time circulation high of 8.5 million) (van Zuilen). Both were, in the end, overcome by financial difficulties and a lack of institutional will to carry on. Continue reading “â€œOne last fiery hurrahâ€: LIFEâ€™s final issue”
Part two in a series.
As I suggested in Part One, the messianic/utopian view of science and technology attributed to LIFE Magazine is consistent with an ideological bent that traces its lineage to the dawn of the Enlightenment in Europe.
Francis Baconâ€™s highly influential New Atlantis, first published in 1626, recounts the narratorâ€™s fictional shipwreck on the shores of Bensalem, a lost utopia, and offers one of the earliest testaments to the potential of applied science (Outhwaite & Bottomore 1994). In an extended ceremony, Bacon is given to know the seemingly limitless bounty of Bensalemâ€™s scientific expertise. Bensalem is well versed in all manner of advanced technology: refrigeration and preservation, mining, agriculture, astronomy, meteorology, genetics, animal husbandry, desalination, medicine, musicology, mechanics, air flight, and mathematics are literally only a few of the society’s advanced technological arts. Continue reading “LIFE and the long view: ideologies of science and technology since the Enlightenment”
Part one in a series.
During its 36-year run, LIFE Magazine traversed a period of technological innovation and peril unsurpassed in the recorded history of humanity. As the first issue was released in November of 1936, a resurgent Germany was constructing the most awesome war machine the world had yet seen, a development that literally threatened the very future of the hemisphere. LIFEâ€™s final issue went to press at the end of 1972, roughly three weeks after NASAâ€™s last manned mission to the moon, Apollo 17, closed the books on a program that proved — theoretically, at least — that humanity was not inevitably bound to this planet.
The technological distance between these two moments is mind-boggling. Continue reading “ArtSunday: â€œ…to see and be amazedâ€: The LIFE and times of technology in America, 11/23/36-12/29/72”