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Philosophical Transactions, the Oldest Continuous Journal of an Academy of Science, Begins Publication

Philosophical Transactions Volume 1 frontispiece

Title page of the first volume of Philosophical Transactions. This is a special copy presented by the editor, Henry Oldenburg per the inscription at the foot of the title page.

On March 6, 1665 Philosophical Transactions: Giving some Accompt of the Present Undertakings, Studies, and Labours of the Ingenious in Many Considerable Parts of the World began publication in London by the Royal SocietyPhilosophical Transactions is the oldest continuously published journal of an academy of science.

Leading up to its first publication, on 1 March 1664/5, two years after the granting of its charter, the Royal Society authorized its second secretary, Henry Oldenburg, to publish at his own expense a monthly collection of scientific papers communicated to him either by members of the society or by foreign scientists. Although it was not the earliest scientific periodical, since Journal des sçavans antedated it by three months, Philosophical Transactions, with its long papers, book reviews and notices of work in progress, became the primary means of communication between English and Continental scientists, and served as a model for later periodicals issued by scientific academies.

"The first volumes of what is now the world's oldest scientific journal in continuous publication were very different from today's journal, but in essence it served the same function; namely to inform the Fellows of the Society and other interested readers of the latest scientific discoveries. As such, Philosophical Transactions established the important principles of scientific priority and peer review, which have become the central foundations of scientific journals ever since. In 1886, the breadth and scope of scientific discovery had increased to such an extent that it became necessary to divide the journal into two, Philosophical Transactions A and B, covering the physical sciences and the life sciences respectively" (, where all issues of Philosophical Transactions are available online)

Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 148.

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