The World’s most important Scientific Journal – Nature

Logo of the journal Nature used in its first issue on Nov. 4, 1869

On 4 November 1869, the very first issue of the prominent interdisciplinary scientific journal ‘Nature‘ was published. It is widely regarded as one of the few remaining academic journals that publish original research across a wide range of scientific fields and was ranked the world’s most cited journal.

Scientific journals played an important role with the enormous technological, scientific, and industrial improvements that evolved during the 19th century. The Royal Society had published most works of Sir Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday and Charles Darwin previously. Other journals were primarily written in German or French. The goal was to bring the scientific world closer to the masses and make it understandable for everyone. ‘Recreative Science: A Record and Remembrancer of Intellectual Observation‘ presumably belongs to Nature’s closest predecessors. It was created in 1859 and also the ‘Popular Science Review‘ starting in 1862 covered various fields of science. Popular Science Review survived the longest with 20 years of publishing, the others basically failed at some point earlier.

The English scientist and astronomer, Norman Lockyer, who is credited with discovering the gas helium (along with Pierre Janssen) got the idea of creating another scientific journal he named ‘Nature’. First of all, the journal was very similar to its predecessors with the goal to “provide cultivated readers with an accessible forum for reading about advances in scientific knowledge“. Famous authors of the journal’s early days were members of the so called ‘X-club’. Its initiator was Tomas Henry Huxley and the club in general supported back then controversial theories like natural selection. The club claimed to be united by “devotion to science, pure and free, untrammelled by religious dogmas“. One of the editors, John Maddox later stated that these and other articles found in the journal meant real journalism and were the reason that ‘Nature’ became a lasting success.

During the years, the journal expanded and got more and more international. Sir Richard Gregory was responsible to do so. The first branches outside the U.S. opened in Munich and Tokyo in 1987 followed by Paris and Hong Kong. The Nature Website was established in 1997, publishing several articles for free. Two years later, the journal also began publishing science fiction stories that now appear weekly.

If you ever wondered how a scientific paper becomes a well read article in the Nature journal, you may be interested in the video ‘The life of a Nature paper‘ at yovisto.

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