Life Magazine


The articles and ads below are just a sample of the wide coverage that penicillin and other wonder drugs received in Life Magazine. Life was first published in November 1936 by Henry Luce, who, at the time, was also the editor-in-chief of Time Magazine. Indeed, in many ways Luce intended the two magazines to compliment one another; his vision was to begin a photo-journalism magazine that was motivated by (and capitalized upon) a growing American audience for the images contained in movies, weekly magazines and tabloid newspapers.

The magazine was wildly popular. Indeed the very first issue, nearly half a million copies, sold out of stands within four hours. By the postwar years, Life was read by 36% of US families. Nevertheless, production of the magazine was consistently troubled. Within just a year of the magazine's release it began to suffer financial losses from which it ultimately never managed to recover.

Examine the article and advertisement below. What do the photo-essay and Squibb ad below, printed in Life during the 1940s, tell us about Americans’ image, expectations, and experience of medicine at this time? How do they frame penicillin development and research? How do they represent the role and nature of scientific and medical research? What do these materials reveal about the authors' view of their particular historical circumstances (i.e. World War II)? What is the impact of the distinctive pictorial style of representations in Life?

Life Magazine Archive:



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