Scientific American Frontiers was an Americantelevision program primarily focused on informing the public about new technologies and discoveries in science and medicine. It was a companion program to the Scientific American magazine. The show was produced for PBS in the U.S. by The Chedd-Angier Production Company, Watertown, Massachusetts (as was its predecessor, Discover: The World of Science, a companion program to Discover magazine), and typically aired once every two to four weeks. The shows had been available on-line at their website, but continue to air regularly on the national digital channel World.
The show first aired in 1990 with MIT professor Woodie Flowers who served as the original host from 1990 to the spring of 1993. Actor Alan Alda became the permanent host starting in the fall season of 1993 and continued until the show ended in 2005. Alda's tenure has been notable for his humble and often humorous approach: in one memorable segment, he became car sick while driving an experimental, virtual reality vehicle. In 2005, Alda published his first round of memoirs, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: and Other Things I've Learned, published by Random House (ISBN 1-4000-6409-0); in the book, he recalls his intestines becoming strangulated while on location in Chile for the show, an incident that nearly cost him his life since he was in a remote region and it was difficult to get to a doctor. Finally he found one, who turned out to be a M*A*S*H fan. Further, the treatment (an end-to-end anastomosis following resection of the necrotic section) was familiar to Alda; the historical development of techniques for vascular anastomosis during the Korean war had featured in the show's scripts.
Most programs include about three short documentaries, but some shows follow a different pattern. The show has been popular among people interested in science and technology. Some early viewers of the program who were young at the time have ended up appearing as guests in later episodes, often stating that the program inspired them to continue their scientific pursuits.