The journal Nature is making available online its entire archive of publication all the way back to the inaugural issue in 1869.
“There are so many gems,” says Nature’s current editor-in-chief, Philip Campbell.
“It’s great to be able to sit at my desktop and visit a quaint discussion of the web-constructing ingenuity of a spider in a writer’s back garden in Torquay, alongside the altogether more heavyweight letter from Lord Rayleigh on Darwin’s theory of co-evolution of insects and the colours of flowers.”
But the magazine was not immediately successful.
Despite the boom in periodical publishing in Victorian Britain in the 1860s, the fledgling Nature did not make a profit for more than 30 years and only survived because of the commitment and belief of its first publisher, Alexander Macmillan, co-founder of Macmillan Publishers, and the hard work of the first editor, Norman Lockyer.
An astrophysicist who discovered the element helium in the Sun’s corona decades before it was found on Earth, Lockyer had a forceful personality which led to damaging clashes with many of the leading scientists of the day.
Indeed, some historians of science have suggested that Lockyer even encouraged controversies in the pages of Nature to raise awareness of the journal and boost its readership.