Maybe the Best Letter Ever Sent to an Editor by a Writer

Dear Scientific American,

A while ago I received an offer from the editor (Dennis Flanagan) of $1,000 for an article based on my work on St. Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean. I am afraid that it has taken me longer to complete than I anticipated. I have no idea how long contracts are valid but I hope you will consider for publication the enclosed response to your kind offer albeit somewhat delayed. My wife used to work for Penguin, Random House and Macmillan, all of whom used to regard authors as unreliable, often not delivering what was promised. My perspective as a slow writer is that publishers are too impatient, and if they waited a little while—in this case 47 years—they would receive a worthwhile submission.

The first few pages follow; I think they supply the information you request.

Thanking you,
Ian Shine MD
The letter, with background on the story, was posted today by Ricki Rusting of Scientific American:

A Manuscript 47 Years in the Making

A physician invited to write for Scientific American in the 1960s has finally turned in his story.
From Jack: Dennis Flanagan was editor of Scientific American for 37 years, from 1947 to 1984, and he made it into a great magazine, working with everyone from Albert Einstein to Linus Pauling. He died in 2005 at the age of 85.

I got to know him while judging the National Magazine Awards in the 1980s. He was quiet, courteous, and very smart, and a great judge of stories and talent. The pre-digital age was much more hospitable to such editors.

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