Friday, 6 March 2015

Happy Birthday, Phil!

Yes, it's birthday time today for old Phil Trans, or more properly Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, the world's oldest continuously published scientific journal which is 350 years old today.

Back on 6 March 1665 (centre image), the first copies of this remarkable document appeared in London. Since then it has carried a whole range of mid boggling papers, including everything from Newton's breakthrough paper on light and colour in 1672 (left image), Benjamin Franklin's account of flying a kite in a storm (not performed personally it now seems) in 1752, Eddington's (rather dodgy) 'proof' of the general theory of relativity from eclipse observations in 1919, published in 1920, through to the present day.

What sadly it no longer includes are the more wacky topics that turned up in the past, from an account of a 'very odd monstrous calf' (by Robert Boyle in the first volume) and 'of a way of killing ratle-snakes (sic)' to an analysis of the young Mozart that somehow managed to deduce he really was a musical genius.

Those nice people at the Royal Society are celebrating by making all RS journals content free to access to the end of March (though to be fair, they ought to always be free to access). There are also special commemorative issues, films and more - take a look at the 'Publishing 350' site.

You can read more about the history of Philosophical Transactions, and download a 26 page ebook on it here.

If you want to read the very first issue, you can also do this, as all the historical editions of Transactions up to 1943 are available freely online here. Scroll down to the bottom to find volume 1.

Altogether now: Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday, dear Phil, Happy Birthday to you!

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