Thursday, September 6, 2012

27 October 2011 – Giant shoulders

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.


- Issac Newton, from a letter to Robert Hooke, 5 February 1675


I don't often find myself feeling positively giddy, but while we spent most of yesterday thinking about how to do science better, something positively monumental happened: 
The Royal Society put its entire journal archive on-line for free.

The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society - the first peer-reviewed scientific journal in the history of the human race - was first published in 1665.  Since then, the Society has published more than 60,000 papers, representing some of mankind's most monumental and world-altering scientific achievements.

Want to read what Charles Darwin had to say about the marine origins of Scottish roads?  Here you go:

Or a theory of tides, extracted by Edmund Halley (yes, the comet guy) from Newton's Principia?  Le voila:

How about what happens when you fly a kite in an electrical storm - a trifling piece by a Mr. B. Franklin of Philadelphia?

Or perhaps you'd like to read this funky little monograph:

That one was written by James Clerk Maxwell - a modest man who, like Newton, acknowledged that he was standing on the shoulders of giants.  Maxwell's shoulders proved broad enough to support Rutherford and Michelson, Einstein and Bohr, Schrodinger, Heisenberg, and everyone else who came after him.  Maxwell is all but unknown outside the physical science community, but that paper is the foundation of the modern world.  And now it's online, the way it was originally published.  For free.

There's no point in gilding the lily.  Here's the search engine. 

Go have some fun.