From a document of the Royal Society dated March 11, 1665, we learn that the Society has recommended that “Philosophical Transactions be prepared by Mr. Oldenburg and published every first Monday in the month, provided that the publisher has sufficient material and that each issue is approved by the Council of the Society after being reviewed by several Oldenburg appears to have entered into an agreement with the Royal Society by which he retained any profits from the publication of the journal.
The first ever scientific journal failed to produce coconuts for its maker, and she barely earned enough to pay the rent for a house. By his death in 1677, Oldenburg had published 136 issues of Philosophical Transactions. As you can easily see, the magazine was published very regularly, almost every month.
From the very beginning, Oldenburg has focused on high quality. In a series of letters to Robert Boyle describing his idea for the journal, he said, “We must very carefully record the person and time of any new discoveries, and the discoveries themselves, in order to preserve them for posterity.” The fact that each issue of the journal was to be reviewed by several members The assembly prior to its publication indicates the importance that is attached to quality and credibility. Over time, this revision led to a systematic revision process in the 1830s.
Issue 1 of the Philosophical Transactions covers such topics as recent advances in lens refinement, first observations of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, predictions of comets, Robert Boyle’s review of the “Experimental History of Coolness”, Boyle’s Report on the Deformed Calf, Information Found on Some Lead Ore in Germany, Data on the catch of cetaceans in Bermuda, and an article on the use of pendulum clocks to locate ships at sea.
Shortly after Oldenburg’s death, it was decided that the Philosophical Transactions should be published by successive secretaries of the Society, who would publish them at their own expense. When Philosophical Transactions became the subject of criticism around 1750, the Royal Society quickly replied that it was not responsible for publishing the journal. However, in 1752 the Society formally took possession of the magazine. He then stated that it would be published “for the use and interest of the Society,” to be funded by the subscriptions of the Society’s members, and to be issued by a special committee.
The letter was losing money. The average cost of publishing was £300 a year, with just over £150 from sales. Sales progressed slowly, and it took about 10 years for less than 100 copies of a given issue to sell.
The situation did not change in the nineteenth century. On the contrary, costs are rising again, and the most serious source of costs is the graphics in the magazine. Illustrations were an integral part of the scientific writings of the period. Where details were required, the metal plates, from which the prints were made, had to be engraved. It was easier to create graphs. Wood carving was used here.
About 1850 the Journal became a serious burden on the Royal Society’s finances. In 1852, for example, it depreciated £1,094 and only £276 was raised from the sale. 1,000 copies were issued, of which 500 were distributed to members of the Society, and up to 150 free copies were distributed to the authors of articles. So it was clear that sales would be significantly limited.
In 1887, the journal divided into Series A, specializing in the physical sciences, and Series B, specializing in the biological sciences. At the end of the nineteenth century, six specialized committees were created: mathematical, biological, zoological, physiological, geological, and physical and chemical, which reviewed the articles.
In the 20th century, the magazine’s publishing costs rose again. The first profit was recorded in 1932, but there were no isolated events. Only from 1948 he started recording profits on a regular basis. This has become possible as more and more British and international institutions have been involved in the transactions. Until the early 1970s, institutional subscriptions were the main sales channel. For example, 43,760 copies of Transactions were sold between 1970 and 1971, of which only 2,070 were purchased by non-subscribing individuals.
The first online issue of Transactions was published in 1997.
Over several centuries of its activity, the journal has published articles by many giants of science. The texts of Isaac Newton, who began his scientific career with the publication in 1672 of an article entitled “On the New Theory of Light and Colours”, were published. In one of the editions of 1677 we can read an article by Anton van Leeuwenhoek, in which many different bacteria are described in detail for the first time. In the Philosophical Transactions we will also find 19 articles by Benjamin Franklin and reports by William Roy on field surveys in Scotland, which became the basis for the creation of a government agency dealing with the creation of maps of Great Britain.
Caroline Herschel, who described a new comet, and Mary Somerville, who studied sunlight, also published in Transactions. There is also an essay by Charles Darwin and 40 texts by Michael Faraday. Alan Turing and Stephen Hawking also contributed to the Philosophical Transactions.
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