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Nature’s early archive is online

The historic moments in modern science reported in Nature can now be explored online. The archive of the first 80 years (1869-1949) of the journal Nature, the world’s foremost weekly scientific journal, is now live. Every article published in Nature, back to volume 1, issue 1 is now available online.

Nature’ s archive reveals a wealth of treasures from the first years of the journal, including the first observation of X-rays (Wilhelm Röntgen, 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).

Containing more than 4,000 issues and an estimated 180,000 articles, the 1869-1949 archive completes the digitization of Nature. The project has taken 5 years to complete, beginning with the launch of the 1987-1996 archive in 2003. There is a special web feature, The history of the journal Nature, featuring timelines, video interviews and profiles of all Nature ‘s (surprisingly few) Editors since the journal was founded.

In places, Nature’s early archive reads like science fiction, with its foretelling of science and technology we take for granted today. The forensic use of fingerprints in solving crime was suggested as early as 1880: “When bloody finger-marks or impressions on clay, glass &c., exist, they may lead to the scientific identification of criminals.” Scotland Yard introduced fingerprint identification in 1901, based on an 1892 book by Francis Galton. Motion-capture photograph pioneer Edward Muybridge suggested the development of the ‘photo finish’ in Nature in 1880. Lamenting the ’dead heat’ in horse racing, he asked why officials would not “avail themselves of the same resources of science” and employ up to 20 cameras to decide the rightful outcome of races. It would be more than 50 years before the ‘photo finish’ became widely used in sport.

Articles in the Nature archive 1869-1949 are available as PDFs of the original journal article, with HTML abstracts. Access is by site license for institutions, or articles can be purchased individually.

A selection of Nature’s “greatest hits”, including the article by Dart, and Watson and Crick’s 1953 paper that deciphers the structure of DNA, are featured in A century of Nature, some of which is free for a limited time.

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