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Nature’s History

by Eva Amsen

When I was in undergrad, I still visited the library once in a while to get an article. Many were online, but especially older editions had not yet been scanned for all journals. Libraries are as distracting as the internet with all their information begging to be looked at, and one one trip I wandered around the dark stacks to find the 1953 volume of Nature. I had a geeky moment of joy when I saw that it really contained the Watson/Crick paper on the structure of DNA. It was a bound book of original editions of the journal, so what I was touching were the same pages that were touched half a century earlier by somebody hearing of these ideas for the very first time.

I also have “A Bedside Nature: Genius and Eccentricity in Science 1869-1953” which is a collection of old articles and letters, illustrating Nature’s history from that period.

Now Nature has put the entire archive of the first 80 years of the journal online, so there is even more (virtual) browsing to be done. Maxine Clark wrote on Nautilus:

“Nature’s archive reveals a wealth of treasures from the first years of the journal, including the first observation of X-rays (Wilhelm Roentgen, 1896), the discovery of the electron (J.J. Thomson, 1897), the first fossil evidence that humans originated in Africa (Raymond Dart, 1925), and the discovery of the neutron (James Chadwick, 1932).”

There’s also a web feature on Nature’s history.

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1 comment

Shelley January 13, 2008 - 6:29 PM

Hee! I’ve looked up that Nature paper too!

Last year the Royal Society opened a bunch of their archives, either for free or for people with an institutional subscription (can’t remember which), and I had fun looking up all kinds of awesomeness from the past. It went away though and my library doesn’t pay for the really old stuff right now.

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