350 years on from the first Philosophical Transactions journal the Royal Society celebrates.

6 March 2015 marked 350 years since the first issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions was published. The journal has been in continuous publication ever since, although it split into two parts – Phil Trans A covering the physical sciences and Phil Trans B covering the life sciences – in 1887. You can find out more about the history of the journal in this blog by Dr Noah Moxham.

350 year anniversary Philosophical Transaction journals 

Celebratory issues

Today, the two journals publish theme issues on a wide range of topics across the sciences. To celebrate the anniversary, we published two special issues which look back at highlights from the archive, with commentaries by current leading scientists, historians and science writers. Physical sciences and mathematics are covered in Phil Trans A, and life sciences in Phil Trans B.

Archive material

The Royal Society archives are a fascinating catalogue of the changing practices in scientific communication over the years, and as part of the anniversary issues we have provided some examples of the correspondence and paperwork relating to the papers as supplementary material. Click on the ‘Figures and Data’ tab on the commentaries to see scans of the original manuscripts, minutes from the meetings that papers were read at, and early referee reports. Highlights include Leeuwenhoek’s beautiful handwriting, Robert Hooke’s comments on Newton’s manuscript, and early referee reports on Faraday’s 1832 paper.

A sample of Leeuwenhoek's original manuscript

Video interviews

We took this opportunity to interview the Editor in Chief of Phil Trans A, Professor Dave Garner, about the journal and publishing more generally. Click here to watch him in conversation with Director of Publishing, Stuart Taylor.

In addition, we interviewed some of the authors from the two issues about the impact of the papers that they were looking at, and their field of research. Visit our YouTube playlist to browse interviews with Sir John Meurig Thomas, Emily Winterburn, Nick Lane, Elizabeth Simpson, Patricia Fara, Philip Ball and Jim Al-Khalili.


We have also published a series of blogs relating to the anniversary. These are a mixture of author Q&As about the special issues, and general blogs about other highlights in our archive.

This blog series will continue during 2015, and we welcome your contribution!


For information about the anniversary, and to see what other events and materials have been produced, visit the Publishing350 website.



  • Helen Eaton

    Helen Eaton