Published monthly, this is the official magazine of the American Museum of Natural History. I get it because I'm a member of the museum, but would recommend it even to people who live too far from New York City to visit the museum.
The articles are written for the educated layperson--they assume you know what a dinosaur is, but won't throw chemical formulas at you. The general tone is "here's something interesting that we'd like to share with you." "Natural history" is an old name for a science that has now been split up into, among others, zoology, anthropology, and geology. The museum, and the magazine, are interested in all of them.
Few readers will be interested in all the articles--if you're fascinated by whales and the Grand Canyon, you may not care about rural African culture, and vice versa. But if you're even slightly curious, this magazine gives you the chance to invest a little time and read five or ten pages, not a whole book, on a new subject.
Stephen J. Gould has a regular column, "This View of Life," on biology and the history of science, from what I'd call a Christian evolutionist viewpoint--he is a professional biologist, with a specialty in molluscs, who is also fascinated with the history of science and how intelligent people have sometimes reached incorrect conclusions. Gould is prone to baseball metaphors and quotes from the Bible.
The astronomy articles and columns are news-oriented: where to watch upcoming comets or eclipses, planets that will be easily visible in the upcoming month, and the latest theories of black holes and the origin of the Universe all get space here.
Some months, the magazine is worth getting just for the photos.
Excellent source for nature fans
Subscribing to Natural History was one of the best things that I have ever done. It is insightful, knowledgeable, and has plenty of resources that you can refer to. There are articles on fossils, ancient tribal races, marine biology, anything you can think of that has to do with nature with relation to current and past times. Unlike Discover, which covers a broad range of sciences, Natural History consists mostly of specific topics. If you don't like Natural History, which I highly doubt, try Discover instead. If that doesn't work, then probably Popular Science would be it. These three magazines cover just about every science topic you can think of.
Finest Popular Magazine on Natural History
"Natural History" is the official popular journal published by the American Museum of Natural History, the oldest - and largest - museum of natural history in the Western Hemisphere and without question, one of the world's greatest museums. In its pages it has featured brilliant essays by the likes of Roy Chapman Andrews, Margaret Mead, and Stephen Jay Gould, to name but a few of the many eminent scientists - both museum staff and outsiders - who have contributed superb articles on natural history to this magazine. It has retained an emphasis on scientific discovery, publishing articles pertaining to ecology and other aspects of evolutionary biology (including paleobiology), geology, astrophysics, archaeology and anthropology. Recent issues have included brief articles on biomechanics of various living organisms, those pertaining to recent and current exhibitions such as the Petra exhibition on display at the museum from the Fall of 2003 to early Summer 2004, and current ecological and anthropological research. Current museum scientists, most notably Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium, often report in these pages on their ongoing research as well as on issues of a more general nature that might interest a scientifically-literate public. And to its credit, it has not shied away from controversy, publishing for example, an issue on so-called "Intelligent Design", which is seen by its adherents as a competing scientific alternative to evolution via Natural Selection, but lacks any scientific credibility from professional scientists, science educators and like-minded members of the general public.
This is an outstanding journal. The articles are diverse, informative, and current. Other than possibly Scientific American, there is not better journal for the life sciences.
An earlier reviewer critized the journal for not using the metric system. Personally, I do not find this to be a problem with a journal which is primarly qualitative and not quantitative.
The Best Semi-Popular Journal On Natural History
This is a great magazine: I call it semi-popular because it is occasionally technical and often referenced in scientific works, but it is very accessible and readable to the inquisitive member of the general public. If you have any interest in life on earth, do yourself a favor and subscribe.
i enjoyed the magizine. it was also helpful in school. i learnt a lot from reading it
Going down hill
I used to really like this magazine, but it seems to be going down hill very rapidly now. It is about half the size it used to be, and contains way too much advertising. I suspect that the reason is that Stephen J. Gould's column is what made the magazine so popular, until he quit writing it before he died. I will definitely be letting my subscription expire.