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Although Piel never formally studied science—he graduated from Harvard magna cum laude as a history major—his influence over science literacy worldwide cannot be overstated. For six years in the 1940s he worked as the science editor at Life magazine, reaching an audience of millions. Then in 1947 he and a group of investors purchased Scientific American.
Gerard Piel believed strongly that the entire world should participate and share in the benefits of scientific enterprise. For that reason, he aggressively sought partners outside the U.S. to publish Scientific American in other countries and languages. Thanks in part to his initiative, editions of Scientific American are today published in 18 nations.