A little writing motivation- a brief,brief history of scientific publication

I’m doing some writing for a literature review this summer and I know around this time many other science students or researchers are also busy writing away…. so this post is for us all. Here’s a brief history on science publishing to give you some perspective on your scientific writing work ahead.

5 January 1665- First Academic Journal in Europe- Journal des sçavans. 

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This journal aimed to publish book reviews on new books in Europe and also aimed to communicate findings from a wide range of genres- from the natural sciences to Cartesian philosophy. It was later renamed the Journal des ‘savants’, for the community it highlighted. And according to the editor, ‘there is nothing that occurs in Europe worth be known by men of letters that you cannot learn from this Journal’.  

6 March 1665- First Scientific Journal in the World- Philosophical Transactions, Giving some Account of the present Undertakings, Studies, and Labours of the Ingenious in many considerable parts of the World- Royal Society 

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This was published just 60 days after the Journal des Savants and was the very first to be dedicated purely to scientific discoveries.  And yes, that is the full name and it certainly has some flair to it. I find it refreshing that the labours of the natural philosophers, or otherwise ‘scientists’ are acknowledged in the title. And modesty is put aside with the ‘ingenious’ descriptor, lauding the intellectually elite. Thus began the system of registration, archiving and refereeing  to which we are so accustomed today and opened the doors for science dissemination. The guardian celebrated 350 years of  publishing back in 2015 with this post, highlighting some prominent authors and events in the history of the journal.

1818- First United States of America scientific Journal- The American Journal of Science, more especially of Mineralogy, Geology and the other Branches of Natural History, including also Agriculture and the Ornamental as well a Useful Arts. 

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This was the first scientific journal in the USA, now primarily dedicated to the Earth Sciences.


In doing my Google-style research for this post (oh for shame!), I realized its western-centrism. The longest-running scientific journals in the world are in Europe and America, still the powerhouses of the publishing industry. It seems that with time also comes prestige, as the publishing in other countries is undoubtedly less respected ( as I have noticed through conversation with colleagues and from the diminished accessibility of information on the history of publishing beyond the west).

And this history has certainly influenced the most preferred language of choice for communication of science- English. And in turn, the use of English to facilitate the scientific community will benefit the language itself, as its prevalence in original published documents contributing to the sum of humanity’s scientific knowledge will maintain its own need to persist.


Now we’re in 2017 and there are thousands of scientific journals worldwide, with science communication undoubtedly at its peak. After 352 years of science publication, we are here still working to the ethos of ‘work, finish and publish’. Here’s to dissemination of your knowledge!  Happy Writing! 🙂  

Here are some other links I referenced:

Why We Publish: The Past, Present and Future of Science Communication 

350 Years of scientific publication: from the Journal des Scavans and Philosophical Transactions to SciELO

 

 

 

 

 

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