History of scientific journals

Over 350 years of publishing archives

The Royal Society has been publishing scientific articles for over 350 years. All of our published material is available to read within our journal websites. 

During 2015 we celebrated the 350th anniversary of Philosophical Transactions, the world's first science journal. Information about the activities and resources associated with this celebration can be found below. Philosophical Transactions pioneered the concepts of scientific priority and peer review which, together with archiving and dissemination, provide the model for almost 30,000 scientific journals today. Read more about the history of the journal.

Since this landmark occasion, we have re-digitised original copies of all our journals from 1665 to 1996 to create The Royal Society Journals Archive.

Science in the Making


Science in the Making is our permanent digital archive portal containing 30,000 items of archival material and 250,000 individual images related to the publication of the Society’s scientific journals. This website presents the complex material that lies behind the published articles, such as peer reviews, correspondence, photographs, illustrations and early drafts. The varied content includes reviews by Darwin, correspondence by Newton, astronomical observations, electrical experiments, anatomical illustrations and more, drawing from every branch of science.

Notes and Records

Our history of science journal, Notes and Records, has been publishing since 1938. In addition to publishing peer-reviewed research articles in all areas of the history of science, technology and medicine, Notes and Records welcomes other forms of contribution including: research notes elucidating recent archival discoveries (in The Royal Society Collections and elsewhere).

Biographical Memoirs


Biographical Memoirs is a series of extended obituaries celebrating the lives and achievement of Fellows of the Royal Society and has been publishing since 1932. All Biographical Memoirs content is freely available to access online.

History of science seminars

In February 2023 we launched a new online seminar series that will feature a selection of talks and seminars covering the history of science based on articles published in Royal Society Publishing journals Notes and Records and Biographical Memoirs. Each talk is associated with a recent paper or theme issue, selected by the journal’s editors as being particularly innovative or having had significant recent impact.

Library Collections

Our library holds one of the most important history of science collections in the world with thousands of rare and unique items. These include published works, handwritten drafts, correspondence, illustrations, and original data on everything from rainfall to astronomical observations. We hold records of the work of the Society since 1660 and our collections can be explored online. Search the library catalogue, visit the reading room, or browse our digital resources that include Turning the Pages and the Picture Library.