Wednesday 26 October 2011

Free Phil Trans

Great news that the Royal Society has decided to make its archive freely available on line on a permanent basis. This is covered on this web page which also gives a link to the archive search page.

The main journal of interest to us is Phil Trans: the Philosophical Transactions, which started publishing in 1665. Amongst more than eight thousand documents you can find the very papers in which William Hershel described his discovery of infrared:
  • Investigation of the Powers of the Prismatic Colours to Heat and Illuminate Objects; With Remarks, That Prove the Different Refrangibility of Radiant Heat. To Which is Added, an Inquiry into the Method of Viewing the Sun Advantageously, with Telescopes of Large Apertures and High Magnifying Powers. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. 1800 90, 255-283
  • Experiments on the Refrangibility of the Invisible Rays of the Sun, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. 1800 90, 284-292
Herschel was prolific. There are 33 papers of his published in 1800 alone. He was the very model of a major scientific mind.

Phil Trans was freely available during 2010 as this was the Royal Society's anniversary year, and access to the papers was very helpful to me when I worked on my history of infrared photography.

Many people believe that open access to scientific papers, many of which are reporting publicly funded research, is definitely something to encourage. The Royal Society says their decision is part of its 'ongoing commitment to open access in scientific publishing' and I salute that.