Royal Society opens archive, kills productivity

60,000 peer-reviewed papers, including the first peer-reviewed scientific research journal in the world, are now available free online. The Royal Society has opened its historical archives to the public. Among the cool stuff you'll find here: Issac Newton's first published research paper and Ben Franklin's write-up about that famous kite experiment. Good luck getting anything accomplished today. Or ever again.


  1. Also, I strongly suggest reading anything you find there in Sheldon’s (Big Bang Theory) voice.
    Instant funny!

    1. Sheldon, with his disdain for the experimentalist, could not write this fabulous prose:

      “That wonderful production of the human mind, the undulatory theory of light, with the phenomena for which it strives to account, seems to me, who am only an experimentalist, to stand midway between what we may conceive to be the coarser mechanical actions of matter, with their explanatory philosophy, and that other branch which includes, or should include, the physical idea of forces acting at a distance; and admitting for the time the existence of the ether, I have often struggled to perceive how far that medium might account for or mingle in with such actions, generally; and to what extent experimental trials might be devised which, with their results and consequences, might contradict, confirm, enlarge, or modify the idea we form of it, always with the hope that the corrected or instructed idea would approach more and more to the truth of nature, and in the fulness of time coincide with it.”

      Michael Faraday, “Experimental Relations of Gold (and other metal) to Light”, Transactions 1857

  2. Anyone know what the deal is with the strange “s” that looks like an “f” throughout the Ben Franklin kite letter?  It seems to switch between that symbol and the typical symbol of “s”.

    1. That is how the f was presented in type and in handwriting for quite a long time. As you go through journals, you’ll see a gradual shift to the modern f character, as well as a departure from the fl ligature. Both forms will appear in the same Journal depending on which Printer set the type.

    2. What you take to be an f is actually the so-called long s, also known as the medial s, to be differentiated from the terminal or short or round s, which we regard today as the conventional form. 

      Throughout its history, the long s has always looked a lot like the lowercase f, to the extent of having a little nubbin vaguely reminiscent of a crossbar appended to its middle sometimes. But the two letters are not otherwise related.

      The use of two types of s dates back at least to the Middle Ages. The long s became especially popular during the Italian Renaissance, with the development of the various “humanistic” scripts that gave rise to our present English script. 

      You’ll notice that the long f, though not the long s, persists in many serif fonts in the type style we now call italic, although the long s was used in so-called roman (i.e., non-slanty) fonts as well.

      The form survived in the formal German script Fraktur until Fraktur itself bit the dust after World War II. The script had come to be associated with German militarism.


  3. “Good luck getting anything accomplished today. Or ever again.”

    Porn and list journalism has that effect on me. 

  4. :-) I submitted

    I’ve read the entire Aubry/Maturin series of novels written by Patrick O’Brian. David Maturin, a physician and “natural philosopher” (a person who studies forms of natural science) was and Jack Aubry, the Royal Navy Commander of “Master and Commander” fame were both members. I got interested in the journals because of O’Brian’s descriptions of papers mentioned in the novels. I’ve been reading very old journals since early this morning (at risk of my employment).

    I can’t stop…. Only 345 year’s worth to go

  5. I wish they would specify which parts of the archive are freely accessible. So far my searches have found nothing but articles locked behind their paywall, even as far back as the 1930’s.

    1. It’s in the very second sentence of the announcement: “Around 60,000 historical scientific papers are accessible via a fully searchable online archive, with papers published more than 70 years ago now becoming freely available.” [emphasis added]

  6. I just loved your title, Maggie, LOL!
    … and I would be happy if I had more time to peruse those papers, but right now I’m organizing a mammalogical meeting that starts in less than 2 weeks… so I hope all those wonderful papers are still available next month!

  7. Tried to find something weird in the archive, succeeded with a search on anus which produced a 1724 “Account of a Fork Put up the Anus, That Was Afterwards Drawn out Through the Buttock.” Following an incision, using a pair of pincers extracted it “not without great difficulty.”

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