On many a college campus are inscribed somewhere or other the words of Isaac Newton, who in 1676 said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Among those raising his stature you could probably count the people who took the young math prodigy seriously, and decided to publish his work on things like calculus and optics. The Royal Society, the world’s oldest academic publishing institution, was the first to do so. And now their entire archive is online for free, dating back to 1665, so you can see Newton’s writings just as the world first saw them.
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The Royal Society just uploaded every article older than 70 years, and the entire collection is searchable online. Along with Newton’s first research paper, the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society contain roughly 69,000 articles, including original research by Robert Boyle, William Herschel, Joseph Lister, Michael Faraday and others; Benjamin Franklin’s famous kite-lightning experiment; bizarre accounts of students hit by lightning; and ruminations on what Moon Citizens would glimpse as they looked at Earth, among many other tales.
“If all the books in the world, except the Philosophical Transactions, were to be destroyed, it is safe to say that the foundations of physical science would remain unshaken, and that the vast intellectual progress of the last two centuries would be largely, though incompletely, recorded,” as Thomas Henry Huxley wrote in 1870.
Just for fun, you can set up notifications for when a correction is published, so you’ll be among the first to know if someone ever disproves the Newtonian theories of motion.
We have culled a few samples for your review, which you can enjoy by clicking the photo gallery. If you want to search for yourself, visit the Philosophical Transactions archive.
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