Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 July 2013
By the onset of the Second World War, the British scientific periodical Nature – specifically, Nature's ‘Letters to the editor’ column – had become a major publication venue for scientists who wished to publish short communications about their latest experimental findings. This paper argues that the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ernest Rutherford was instrumental in establishing this use of the ‘Letters to the editor’ column in the early twentieth century. Rutherford's contributions set Nature apart from its fellow scientific weeklies in Britain and helped construct a defining feature of Nature's influence in the twentieth century. Rutherford's participation in the journal influenced his students and colleagues in the field of radioactivity physics and drew physicists like the German Otto Hahn and the American Bertram Borden Boltwood to submit their work to Nature as well, and Nature came to play a major role in spreading news of the latest research in the science of radioactivity. Rutherford and his colleagues established a pattern of submissions to the ‘Letters to the editor’ that would eventually be adopted by scientists from diverse fields and from laboratories around the world.
1 ‘News and views’, Nature (10 February 1934) 133, p. 203.
2 For a more complete investigation of Nature's Britishness prior to the Second World War, please see Melinda Baldwin, ‘Nature and the making of a scientific community, 1869–1939’, unpublished PhD dissertation, Princeton University, 2010, Chapters 4 and 5.
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27 ‘Notes’, The Electrician (14 March 1902) 48, p. 803.
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84 ‘News and views’, Nature (14 April 1934) 133, p. 558; ‘News and views’, Nature (19 January 1935) 134, p. 94; ‘News and views’, Nature (22 February 1936) 137, p. 306. The journal also began printing fifty-word summaries of the week's letters at the end of the column.
85 ‘News and views’, Nature (22 February 1936) 137, p. 306.