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‘Keeping in the race’: physics, publication speed and national publishing strategies in Nature, 1895–1939

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 July 2013

Department of the History of Science, Harvard University, Science Center 371, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. Email:


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.

Research Article
Copyright © British Society for the History of Science 2013 

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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to the Second World War, please see Melinda Baldwin, ‘Nature and the making of a scientific community, 1869–1939’, unpublished PhD dissertation, Princeton University, 2010, Chapters 4 and 5.

3 On popular-science writing in Victorian Britain see Barton, Ruth, ‘Just before Nature: the purposes of science and the purposes of popularization in some English popular science journals of the 1860s’, Annals of Science (1998) 55, pp. 133Google Scholar; Dawson, Gowan, Darwin, Literature and Victorian Respectability, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007Google Scholar; Fyfe, Aileen, Science and Salvation: Evangelical Popular Science Publishing in Victorian Britain, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004Google Scholar; Lightman, Bernard, Victorian Popularizers of Science: Designing Nature for New Audiences, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Secord, James A., Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000Google Scholar; Cantor, G.N. (ed.), Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical: Reading the Magazine of Nature, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004Google Scholar; Cantor, G.N. and Shuttleworth, Sally (eds.), Science Serialized: Representations of the Sciences in Nineteenth-Century Periodicals, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004Google Scholar; Henson, Louise et al. , Culture and Science in the Nineteenth-Century Media, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004Google Scholar. On the twentieth century see Bowler, Peter, Science for All: The Popularization of Science in Early Twentieth-Century Britain, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2009Google Scholar.

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5 There has been some influential scholarship devoted to the study of modern scientific communication, including studies of journal citation patterns, and some scholarly attention has been focused on changes in the language of the scientific article. Such studies, however, are usually interested in the scientific journal's current form and do not seek to analyse the journal's historical development. See, for example, Atkinson, Dwight, Scientific Discourse in Sociohistorical Context: The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 1675–1975, Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1999Google Scholar; Crane, Diana, Invisible Colleges: Diffusion of Knowledge in Scientific Communities, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1972Google Scholar; de Solla Price, Derek, Science since Babylon, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1961Google Scholar; Price, de Solla, ‘Networks of scientific papers’, Science (1965) 149, pp. 510515CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Dear, Peter (ed.), The Literary Structure of Scientific Argument, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994Google Scholar; Gross, Alan G., Harmon, Joseph E. and Reidy, Michael, Communicating Science: The Scientific Article from the 17th Century to the Present, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002Google Scholar.

6 Macleod, R.M., various articles, Nature (1969) 224, pp. 417461Google Scholar; Werskey, Gary, ‘Nature and politics between the wars’, Nature (1969) 224, pp. 462472Google Scholar; Maddox, John, ‘Introduction’, in Nature 1869–1879, London: Macmillan, 2002, pp. 119Google Scholar; Roos, David A., ‘The “aims and intentions” of Nature’, in Paradis, James and Postlewait, Thomas (eds.), Victorian Science and Victorian Values: Literary Perspectives, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1981, pp. 159180Google Scholar. One likely reason that Nature has not been the subject of an in-depth study is that such a study presents some archival challenges. The Macmillan Company and the Nature offices did not preserve much official correspondence prior to 1990, and there are no archives devoted specifically to Nature. Alysoun Sanders, archivist for the Macmillan Publishing Group, personal communication, 2007.

7 On Nature's history before 1900 see Baldwin, Melinda, ‘The shifting ground of Nature: establishing an organ of scientific communication in Britain, 1869–1900’, History of Science (2012) 50, pp. 125154CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

8 On X-rays see Glasser, Otto, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen and the Early History of the Roentgen Rays, Springfield: Thomas, 1934Google Scholar; Dibner, Bern, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen and the Discovery of X Rays, New York: Watts, 1968Google Scholar. On the Curies see Brian, Denis, The Curies: A Biography of the Most Controversial Family in Science, Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons, 2005Google Scholar; Boudia, Soraya, Marie Curie et son laboratoire: Sciences et industrie de la radioactivité en France, Paris: Editions des Archives contemporaines, 2001Google Scholar; Quinn, Susan, Marie Curie: A Life, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995Google Scholar; Ogilvie, Marilyn Bailey, Marie Curie: A Biography, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2004Google Scholar; Pycior, Helena M., ‘Reaping the benefits of collaboration while avoiding its pitfalls: Marie Curie's rise to scientific prominence’, Social Studies of Science (1993) 23, pp. 301323CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed.

9 ‘Notes’, Nature (16 January 1896) 53, p. 253.

10 Röntgen, W.C., ‘On a new kind of rays’, trans. Stanton, Arthur, Nature (23 January 1896) 53, pp. 274276Google Scholar.

11 Swinton, A.A.C., ‘Professor Röntgen's discovery’, Nature (23 January 1896) 53, pp. 276277Google Scholar. On Swinton see Swinton, A.A.C., Autobiographical and Other Writings, London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1930Google Scholar; McGee, J.D., ‘The contribution of A. A. Campbell Swinton to television’, Notes and Records of the Royal Society (1977–1978) 32, pp. 91105Google Scholar.

12 For examples of Chemical News articles on Röntgen rays see ‘Professor Röntgen's new discovery’, Chemical News (31 January 1896) 73, p. 49; Perrin, Jean, ‘Certain properties of Röntgen's rays’, Chemical News (7 February 1896) 73, p. 61Google Scholar; Waddell, John, ‘The permeability of various elements to the Röntgen rays’, Chemical News (18 December 1896) 74, pp. 298299Google Scholar; Ackroyd, William, ‘Action of the metals and their salts on the ordinary and on the Röntgen rays’, Chemical News (20 November 1896) 74, p. 257Google Scholar.

13 For example, Lodge, Oliver, ‘On the present hypotheses concerning the nature of Röntgen's rays’, The Electrician (7 February 1896) 36, pp. 471473Google Scholar.

14 For example, Burke, John, ‘Some experiments with Röntgen rays’, The Electrician (17 July 1896) 37, pp. 373375Google Scholar.

15 For ‘Intelligence and miscellaneous articles’ pieces on Röntgen rays see Rowland, Henry A., Charmichael, N.R. and Briggs, L.J., ‘Notes of observations on the Röntgen rays’, Philosophical Magazine, 5th series (April 1896) 41, pp. 381382Google Scholar; Wood, R.W., ‘Note on “focus tubes” for producing X-rays’, Philosophical Magazine, 5th series (April 1896) 41, pp. 382383Google Scholar; Streinitz, Franz, ‘On an electrochemical action of the Röntgen rays on silver bromide’, Philosophical Magazine, 5th series (May 1896) 41, pp. 462463Google Scholar; Lea, M. Carey, ‘Röntgen rays not present in sunlight’, Philosophical Magazine, 5th series (June 1896) 41, pp. 528530Google Scholar; Righi, Augusto, ‘On experiments with Röntgen rays’, Philosophical Magazine, 5th series (July 1896) 42, p. 530Google Scholar.

16 On Nature's audience see Baldwin, op. cit. (7); Peter C. Kjærgaard, ‘“Within the bounds of science”: redirecting controversies to Nature’, in Henson et al., op. cit. (3), pp. 211–221.

17 Alex Csiszar, ‘Broken pieces of fact: the scientific periodical and the politics of search in nineteenth-century France and Britain’, unpublished PhD dissertation, Harvard University, 2010, Chapter 2.

18 For mentions of Becquerel's work see ‘Societies and academies’, Nature (5 March 1896) 53, pp. 430–432; ‘Notes’, Nature (12 March 1896) 53, pp. 443–447; ‘Recent work with Röntgen rays’, Nature (2 April 1896) 53, pp. 522–524; ‘Societies and academies’, Nature (2 April 1896) 53, pp. 526–528; ‘Societies and academies’, Nature (23 July 1896) 54, pp. 286–288; ‘The Röntgen rays’, Nature (30 July 1896) 54, pp. 302–306. For Thomson's article see J.J. Thomson, ‘The Röntgen rays’, Nature (23 April 1896) 53, pp. 581–583.

19 ‘Notes: Röntgeniana’, The Electrician (4 December 1896) 38, pp. 173–174.

20 Becquerel, Henri, ‘On the invisible radiations emitted by the salts of uranium’, Chemical News (10 April 1896) 73, pp. 167168Google Scholar; Becquerel, Henri, ‘On the different properties of the invisible radiations emitted by uranium salts and the radiation of the antikathodic [sic] wall of a Crookes tube’, Chemical News (24 April 1896) 73, pp. 189190Google Scholar; Becquerel, Henri, ‘Emission of new radiations by metallic uranium’, Chemical News (26 June 1896) 73, p. 295Google Scholar.

21 Badash, Lawrence, ‘Radium, radioactivity, and the popularity of scientific discovery’, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (1978) 122, p. 145Google Scholar.

22 Nye, Mary Jo, Before Big Science: The Pursuit of Modern Chemistry and Physics, 1800–1940, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996, p. 151Google Scholar.

23 On radioactivity and radium in the popular press see Badash, Lawrence, Radioactivity in America: Growth and Decay of a Science, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979, p. 19Google Scholar. See also Matthew Lavine, ‘A cultural history of radiation and radioactivity in the United States, 1895–1945’, unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 2008, pp. 29–90.

24 Pierre and Curie, Marie, ‘Chemical effects produced by Becquerel's rays’, Philosophical Magazine, 5th series (February 1900) 49, pp. 242244Google Scholar.

25 Curie, P. and Curie, Mdme. P., ‘Radio-activity due to Becquerel rays’, Chemical News (8 December 1899) 80, p. 269Google Scholar; Curie, Mdme. Sklodowska, ‘Radio-active substances’, Chemical News (1903) 88, pp. 8586Google Scholar, 97–99, 134–135, 145–147, 159–160, 169–171, 175–177, 187–188, 199–201, 211–212, 223–224, 235–236, 247–249, 259–261, 271–272.

26 For mentions of the Curies and their work on radioactivity in Nature before 1900 see ‘Societies and academies’, Nature (21 April 1898) 57, pp. 599–600; ‘Societies and academies’, Nature (28 July 1898) 58, pp. 311–312; ‘The British Association’, Nature (8 September 1898) 58, pp. 436–460; ‘Societies and academies’, Nature (29 December 1898) 59, pp. 214–216; ‘Notes’, Nature (5 January 1899) 59, pp. 230–233; ‘Societies and academies’, Nature (5 January 1899) 59, pp. 239–240; ‘Notes’, Nature (25 May 1899) 60, pp. 84–88; ‘Societies and academies’, Nature (26 October 1899) 60, pp. 635–636; ‘Societies and academies’, Nature (16 November 1899) 61, pp. 70–72.

27 ‘Notes’, The Electrician (14 March 1902) 48, p. 803.

28 On the growth in international congresses see Crawford, Elisabeth, Nationalism and Internationalism in Science, 1880–1939: Four Studies of the Nobel Population, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 3541Google Scholar; Debra Everett-Lane, ‘International scientific congresses, 1878–1913: community and conflict in the pursuit of knowledge’, unpublished PhD dissertation, Columbia University, 2004. On scientific internationalism more generally see Crawford, Elisabeth, Shinn, Terry and Sörlin, Sverker (eds.), Denationalizing Science: The Contexts of International Scientific Practice, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1993Google Scholar; Schroeder-Gudehus, Brigitte, ‘Division of labour and the common good: the International Association of Academies, 1899–1914’, in Berhard, Carl Gustaf, Crawford, Elisabeth and Sörbom, Per (eds.), Science, Technology and Society in the Time of Alfred Nobel, Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1982, pp. 320Google Scholar.

29 The Annalen was previously known as the Journal der Physik (from 1790 to 1794), the Neues Journal der Physik (from 1795 to 1799), and the Annalen der Physik (from 1799 to 1824). Johann Christian Poggendorff christened it Annalen der Physik und Chemie to reflect his goal of acknowledging and illuminating the shared ground between the various branches of the physical sciences. See Jungnickel, Christa and McCormmach, Russell, Intellectual Mastery of Nature: Theoretical Physics from Ohm to Einstein, vol. 1, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1990, pp. 3738Google Scholar.

30 See ‘Jacques Danne (1882–1919)’, Le radium (May 1919) 11, pp. 193–194.

31 These articles contain a brief postscript note indicating the name of the person who translated it into French. Frequent translators include Léon Bloch, A. Laborde, P. Razet and Gaston Danne (Jacques Danne's younger brother). Examples of articles by foreign physicists in Le radium include Boltwood, Bertram, ‘Sur les quantités relatives de radium et d'uranium contenus dans quelques minéraux’, Le radium (15 August 1904) 1, pp. 4548CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Rutherford, E. and Hahn, O., ‘Masse et vitesse des particules α émises par le radium et l'actinium’, Le radium (November 1906) 3, pp. 321326Google Scholar; Soddy, F., ‘La table périodique des elements’, Le radium (January 1914) 11, pp. 68CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

32 For secondary sources on Rutherford see Andrade, E.N. da C., Rutherford and the Nature of the Atom, New York: Doubleday, 1964Google Scholar; Badash, Lawrence, Ernest Rutherford and Theoretical Physics, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987Google Scholar; Bunge, Mario and Shea, William R. (eds.), Rutherford and Physics at the Turn of the Century, New York: Science History Publications, 1979Google Scholar; Campbell, John, Rutherford: Scientist Supreme, Christchurch, NZ: AAS Publications, 1999Google Scholar; Trenn, Thaddeus J., The Self-Splitting Atom: The History of the Rutherford–Soddy Collaboration, London: Taylor & Francis, 1977Google Scholar; Wilson, David, Rutherford: Simple Genius, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1983Google Scholar.

33 On Rutherford's New Zealand background see Badash, Lawrence, ‘The influence of New Zealand on Rutherford's scientific development’, in Reingold, Nathan and Rothenberg, Marc (eds.), Scientific Colonialism: A Cross-cultural Comparison, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987, pp. 379389Google Scholar; Dean, Katrina, ‘Inscribing settler science: Ernest Rutherford, Thomas Laby and the making of careers in physics’, History of Science (2003) 41, pp. 217240Google Scholar.

34 Ernest Rutherford to Mary Newton, 22 April 1898, printed in Eve, A.S., Rutherford: Being the Life and Letters of the Rt. Hon. Lord Rutherford, O.M., New York: The Macmillan Company, 1939, pp. 50Google Scholar.

35 On the Macdonald Physics Laboratory see Pyenson, Lewis, ‘The incomplete transmission of a European image: physics at Greater Buenos Aires and Montreal, 1890–1920’, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (April 1978) 122, pp. 92114Google Scholar. See also Lawrence Badash, ‘The origins of Big Science: Rutherford at McGill’, in Bunge and Shea, op. cit. (32), pp. 23–41; John L. Heilbron, ‘Physics at McGill in Rutherford's time’, in Bunge and Shea, op. cit. (32), pp. 42–73.

36 On Soddy see Kauffman, G.B. (ed.), Frederick Soddy, 1877–1956, Boston: D. Reidel, 1985Google Scholar; Merricks, Linda, The World Made New: Frederick Soddy, Science, Politics, and Environment, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996Google Scholar; Morrison, Mark, Modern Alchemy: Occultism and the Emergence of Atomic Theory, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007Google Scholar. For the Rutherford–Soddy paper see Rutherford, Ernest and Soddy, Frederick, ‘Radioactive change’, Philosophical Magazine, 6th series (1903) 5, pp. 576591Google Scholar.

37 M. and Curie, Mme. P., ‘Sur la radioactivité provoquée par les rayons de Becquerel’, Comptes rendus (20 November 1899) 129, pp. 714716Google Scholar.

38 Rutherford, Ernest, ‘On radioactivity produced in substances by the action of thorium compounds’, Philosophical Magazine, 5th series (February 1900), 49, pp. 161192Google Scholar.

39 Rutherford quoted in Wilson, op. cit. (32), p. 147.

40 Wilson, op. cit. (32), p. 142.

41 Lawrence Badash, op. cit. (35), pp. 32–33.

42 For example, Rutherford, E., ‘Emanations from radio-active substances’, Nature (13 June 1901) 64, pp. 157158Google Scholar; Rutherford, ‘Heating effect of the radium emanation’, Nature (29 October 1903) 68, p. 622; Rutherford, ‘Nature of the γ rays from radium’, Nature (10 March 1904) 69, pp. 436–437; Rutherford, ‘Charge carried by the α rays from radium’, Nature (2 March 1905) 71, pp. 413–414; Rutherford, , ‘Absorption of the radio-active emanations by charcoal’, Nature (25 October 1906) 74, p. 634Google Scholar; Rutherford, , ‘Production of radium from actinium’, Nature (17 January 1907) 75, pp. 270271Google Scholar.

43 Rutherford, E. and Soddy, F., ‘Radio-activity of thorium compounds’, Chemical News (1902) 85, pp. 261, 271–272, 282–285, 293–295, 304–308Google Scholar. Continued in Rutherford and Soddy, ‘Radio-activity of thorium compounds’, Chemical News (1902) 86, pp. 97101, 132–135, 169–170Google Scholar. Rutherford did co-author a Chemical News article with Boltwood in 1905 announcing Boltwood's forthcoming paper in the American Journal of Science. Rutherford, E. and Boltwood, B.B., ‘Relative proportion of radium and uranium in radio-active minerals’, Chemical News (28 July 1905) 92, pp. 3839Google Scholar.

44 On Rutherford's admiration for Heaviside's articles in The Electrician see ‘Annual dinner of the Manchester Section of the Institution of Electrical Engineers’, The Electrician (7 March 1913) 70, p. 1021. See also Nahin, Paul J., Oliver Heaviside: The Life, Work, and Times of an Electrical Genius of the Victorian Age, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002, p. 259Google Scholar. In 1897, J.J. Thomson sent The Electrician a shorter version of his protégé's forthcoming paper in the Philosophical Magazine. Rutherford, E., ‘On the electrification of gases exposed to Röntgen rays, and the absorption of Röntgen radiation by gases and vapours’, The Electrician (23 April 1897) 38, pp. 865868Google Scholar.

45 Kjærgaard, op. cit. (16), pp. 212–217.

46 William Crookes to Norman Lockyer, 20 August 1895, Norman Lockyer Papers (hereafter NLP), Special Collections, University of Exeter Library, Exeter, MSS 110. Crookes's helium paper was published shortly after he wrote the letter. See Crookes, William, ‘The spectrum of helium’, Nature (1895) 52, pp. 428430Google Scholar. A note on the article indicates that Crookes's paper also appeared in that week's edition of the Chemical News.

47 Ernest Rutherford to J.J. Thomson, 26 March 1901, printed in Eve, op. cit. (34), p. 77.

48 Ernest Rutherford to Martha Thompson Rutherford, 17 December 1906, as printed in Eve, op. cit. (34), p. 148.

49 See William Dawson to Norman Lockyer, 10 May 1898, NLP, Special Collections, University of Exeter Library, Exeter, MSS 110; Ernest Rutherford to J. Norman Lockyer, 31 October 1906, NLP, MSS 110.

50 Wilson, op. cit. (32), p. 240.

51 Badash, op. cit. (35), p. 33.

52 See Baldwin, op. cit. (2), Chapters 1 and 2; Ruth Barton, ‘Scientific authority and scientific controversy in Nature: North Britain against the X Club’, in Henson et al., op. cit. (3), pp. 223–235.

53 On prominent late nineteenth-century contributors to Nature see Baldwin, op. cit. (7).

54 For Rutherford's letters to the editor see note (42).

55 For example, Oliphant, M.L., Harteck, P. and Rutherford, E., ‘Transmutation effects observed with heavy hydrogen’, Nature (17 March 1934) 133, p. 413Google Scholar; Rutherford, E. and Chadwick, J., ‘The bombardment of elements by α-particles’, Nature (29 March 1924) 113, p. 457Google Scholar; Rutherford, E., ‘The boiling point of the radium emanation’, Nature (18 February 1909) 79, pp. 457458Google Scholar.

56 For the full correspondence see Badash, Lawrence (ed.), Rutherford and Boltwood: Letters on Radioactivity, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969Google Scholar.

57 On Boltwood, and American radioactivity research more generally, see Badash, op. cit. (23).

58 Bertram Boltwood to Ernest Rutherford, 11 April 1905, printed in Badash, op. cit. (56), p. 60. The Nature article to which Boltwood refers is ‘Societies and academies’, Nature (13 April 1905) 71, p. 574, which includes an abstract of Otto Hahn's preliminary communication to the Royal Society, ‘A new radio-active element, which evolves thorium emanation’. Boltwood evidently held up the letter for several days after beginning it on 11 April while awaiting the latest issue of Nature.

59 Bertram Boltwood to Ernest Rutherford, 7 November 1906, printed in Badash, op. cit. (56), pp. 142–143. The communications Boltwood mentions in his letter were both printed; see Boltwood, Bertram, ‘The production of radium from actinium’, Nature (15 November 1906) 75, p. 54Google Scholar; Boltwood, ‘Note on the production of radium by actinium’, American Journal of Science (December 1906) 22, pp. 537538Google Scholar.

60 Ernest Rutherford to Bertram Boltwood, 20 June 1904, printed in Badash, op. cit. (56), p. 32. The Nature letter Rutherford mentions is Soddy, Frederick, ‘The life-history of radium’, Nature (12 May 1904) 70, p. 30Google Scholar.

61 Ernest Rutherford to Bertram Boltwood, 14 October 1906, as printed in Badash, op. cit. (56), p. 139. For the Nature letter see Rutherford, ‘Absorption of the radio-active emanations by charcoal’, op. cit. (42).

62 For post-1908 references to Nature in the Boltwood–Rutherford correspondence see Badash, op. cit. (56), pp. 182, 212–213, 224, 227–228, 257, 264–265, 282, 311–312, 343, 347–348. Note that Boltwood spent the 1909–1910 academic year with Rutherford at Manchester, resulting in a gap in their written correspondence.

63 Hahn, Otto, ‘A new product of actinium’, Nature (12 April 1906) 73, pp. 559560Google Scholar; Hahn, ‘The origin of radium’, Nature (14 November 1907) 77, pp. 3031Google Scholar; Hahn, Otto and von Baeyer, Otto, ‘Magnetic deflection of β rays’, Nature (26 May 1910) 83, p. 369Google Scholar.

64 Hahn quoted in Wilson, op. cit. (32), p. 242. Notably, although Germany did have a radioactivity journal, the Jahrbuch der Radioaktivität und Elektronik, it was only founded in 1904 and was largely devoted to electromagnetic phenomena, not radioactivity research.

65 de Vries, Hugo, ‘Das Spaltungsgesetz der Bastarde’, Berichte der deutschen botanischen Gesellschaft (1900) 18, pp. 8390Google Scholar; Correns, Carl, ‘G. Mendel's Regel über das Verhalten der Nachkommenschaft der Rassenbastarde’, Berichte der deutschen botanischen Gesellschaft (1900) 18, pp. 158168Google Scholar; von Tschermak, Eric, ‘Über künstliche Kreuzung bei Pisum sativum’, Berichte der deutschen botanischen Gesellschaft (1900) 18, pp. 232239Google Scholar. On this famous case of simultaneous rediscovery see Brannigan, Augustine, The Social Basis of Scientific Discoveries, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981Google Scholar.

66 On the debate between Bateson and the biometricians see Farrall, Lyndsay A., ‘Controversy and conflict in science: a case study’, Social Studies of Science (1975) 5, pp. 269301Google Scholar; Froggatt, P. and Nevin, N.C., ‘The “law of ancestral heredity” and the Mendelian–ancestrian controversy in England 1889–1906’, Journal of Medical Genetics (1971) 8, pp. 136Google Scholar; Kevles, Daniel, ‘Genetics in the United States and Great Britain 1890–1930: a review with speculations’, Isis (1980) 71, pp. 441455Google Scholar; Mackenzie, D. and Barnes, S.B., ‘Scientific judgment: the biometry–Mendelism controversy’, in Barnes, S.B. and Shapin, Steven (eds.), Natural Order: Historical Studies of Scientific Culture, London: Sage Publications, 1979, pp. 191210Google Scholar; Olby, Robert, ‘The dimensions of scientific controversy: the biometric–Mendelian debate’, BJHS (1989) 22, pp. 299320Google Scholar; Porter, Theodore M., Karl Pearson: The Scientific Life in a Statistical Age, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004Google Scholar, Chapters 8 and 9; Sapp, Jan, ‘The struggle for authority in the field of heredity, 1900–1932: new perspectives on the rise of genetics’, Journal of the History of Biology (1983) 16, pp. 311342Google Scholar.

67 See, for example, a 1903 exchange over Mendelian inheritance in mice between Bateson and the biometrician W.F.R. Weldon: Bateson, W., ‘Mendel's principles of heredity in mice’, Nature (19 March 1903) 67, pp. 462463Google Scholar; Weldon, W.F.R., ‘Mendel's principles of heredity in mice’, Nature (2 April 1903) 67, p. 512Google Scholar; Bateson, W., ‘Mendel's principles of heredity in mice’, Nature (23 April 1903) 67, pp. 585586Google Scholar; Weldon, W.F.R., ‘Mendel's principles of heredity in mice’, Nature (30 April 1903) 67, p. 610Google Scholar.

68 See, for example, a 1907 discussion over whether Mendelian inheritance applied to parthenogenic reproduction: Reid, G. Archdall, ‘The interpretation of Mendelian phenomena’, Nature (3 October 1907) 76, p. 566Google Scholar; Lock, R.H., ‘The interpretation of Mendelian phenomena’, Nature (17 October 1907) 76, p. 616Google Scholar; Reid, G. Archdall, ‘The interpretation of Mendelian phenomena’, Nature (31 October 1907) 76, p. 662663Google Scholar; Mudge, Geo. P., ‘The interpretation of Mendelian phenomena’, Nature (7 November 1907) 77, pp. 89Google Scholar; Reid, G. Archdall, ‘The interpretation of Mendelian phenomena’, Nature (7 November 1907) 77, p. 9Google Scholar; Lock, R.H., ‘The interpretation of Mendelian phenomena’, Nature (14 November 1907) 77, p. 32Google Scholar; Cunningham, J.T., ‘The interpretation of Mendelian phenomena’, Nature (21 November 1907) 77, p. 54Google Scholar; Reid, G. Archdall, ‘The interpretation of Mendelian phenomena’, Nature (21 November 1907) 77, pp. 5455Google Scholar; Thiselton-Dyer, W.T., ‘Specific stability and mutation’, Nature (28 November 1907) 77, pp. 7779Google Scholar; Lock, R.H., ‘Specific stability and mutation’, Nature (12 December 1907) 77, p. 127Google Scholar; Thiselton-Dyer, W.T., ‘Specific stability and mutation’, Nature (12 December 1907) 77, p. 127Google Scholar. For a full account of geneticists’ participation in Nature before the First World War see Baldwin, op. cit. (2), Chapter 4.

69 There are many excellent scholarly works on genetics in different national contexts in the early twentieth century. On France see Bonneuil, Christophe, ‘Mendelism, plant breeding and experimental cultures: agriculture and the development of genetics in France’, Journal of the History of Biology (2006) 39, pp. 281308Google Scholar; Burian, Richard M., Gayon, Jean and Zallen, Doris, ‘The singular fate of genetics in the history of French biology, 1900–1940’, Journal of the History of Biology (1988) 21, pp. 357402Google Scholar. On the United States see Kevles, Daniel, In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985Google Scholar; Kohler, Robert, Lords of the Fly: Drosophila Genetics and the Experimental Life, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1994Google Scholar. The historiography of German genetics is strongly tied to the literature about the race-hygiene movement and eugenics. Works specifically on early genetics and Mendelism in Germany include Harwood, Jonathan, Styles of Scientific Thought: The German Genetics Community, 1900–1933, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1993Google Scholar. Similarly, the literature on Russian genetics is heavily dominated by Lysenkoism. For more general treatments of early Russian genetics see Gaissinovich, A.E., ‘Problems of variation and heredity in Russian biology in the late nineteenth century’, Journal of the History of Biology (1973) 6, pp. 97123Google Scholar; Weiner, Douglas R., ‘The roots of “Michurinism”: transformist biology and acclimatization as currents in the Russian life sciences’, Annals of Science (1985) 42, pp. 243260Google Scholar. For a useful analysis of genetics and eugenics in multiple national contexts see Adams, Mark B., The Wellborn Science: Eugenics in Germany, France, Brazil, and Russia, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990Google Scholar.

70 For examples of material about relativity in Nature see Eddington, A.S., ‘Gravitation and the principle of relativity’, Nature (28 December 1916) 98, pp. 328330Google Scholar; Lodge, Oliver J., ‘Gravitation and light’, Nature (4 December 1919) 104, p. 354Google Scholar; Anderson, Alexr., ‘The displacement of light rays passing near the sun’, Nature (4 December 1919) 104, p. 354Google Scholar; Larmor, Joseph, ‘Gravitation and light’, Nature (25 December 1919) 104, p. 412Google Scholar; Schuster, Arthur, ‘The deflection of light during a solar eclipse’, Nature (8 January 1920) 104, p. 468Google Scholar; Joly, J., ‘Relativity and radioactivity’, Nature (8 January 1920) 104, p. 468Google Scholar. On the acceptance of relativity theory in Great Britain see Sponsel, Alistair, ‘Constructing a “revolution in science”: the campaign to promote a favourable reception for the 1919 solar eclipse experiments’, BJHS (2002) 35, pp. 439467Google Scholar; Stanley, Matthew, ‘“An expedition to heal the wounds of war”: the 1919 eclipse and Eddington as Quaker adventurer’, Isis (2003) 94, pp. 5789Google Scholar; Warwick, Andrew, Masters of Theory: Cambridge and the Rise of Mathematical Physics, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003Google Scholar, Chapter 9.

71 A. Einstein, ‘A brief outline of the development of the theory of relativity’, trans. Robert W. Lawson, Nature (17 February 1921) 106, pp. 782–784; H. Weyl, ‘Electricity and gravitation’, trans. Robert W. Lawson, Nature (17 February 1921) 106, pp. 800–802; Lorentz, H.A., ‘The Michelson–Morley experiment and the dimensions of moving bodies’, Nature (17 February 1921) 106, pp. 793795Google Scholar.

72 Bohr, Niels, ‘The spectra of hydrogen and helium’, Nature (4 March 1915) 95, pp. 67CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The signature on the letter indicates that it was submitted from Manchester.

73 Rutherford died unexpectedly at the age of sixty-six following surgery for a minor hernia. For a helpful summary of the Bohr–Rutherford correspondence see Peierls, Rudolf, ‘Rutherford and Bohr’, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London (1988) 42, pp. 229241Google Scholar.

74 For examples of letters to the editor from Copenhagen see Rosseland, S., ‘Origin of radioactive disintegration’, Nature (17 March 1923) 111, p. 357Google Scholar; Klein, Oskar, ‘The atomicity of electricity as a quantum theory law’, Nature (9 October 1926) 118, p. 516Google Scholar; Gamow, G., ‘The quantum theory of nuclear disintegration’, Nature (24 November 1928) 122, pp. 805806Google Scholar; Hevesy, G. and Levi, Hilde, ‘Action of slow neutrons on rare earth elements’, Nature (1 February 1936) 137, p. 185Google Scholar.

75 Coster, D. and Hevesy, G., ‘On the missing element of atomic number 72’, Nature (20 January 1923) 111, p. 79Google Scholar. For other Nature letters on hafnium see Hansen, H.M. and Werner, S., ‘The optical spectrum of hafnium’, Nature (10 March 1923) 111, p. 322Google Scholar; Coster, D. and Hevesy, G., ‘On celtium and hafnium’, Nature (7 April 1923) 111, pp. 462463Google Scholar. The French scientists Georges Urbain and Alexandre Dauvillier briefly challenged the Coster–Hevesy priority claim; Urbain and Dauvillier claimed they had discovered element 72 first, and had named it celtium. See Kragh, Helge, ‘Anatomy of a priority conflict: the case of element 72’, Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology (1979–1980) 23, pp. 275301Google Scholar.

76 Curie, Irène and Joliot, Frederic, ‘Effet d'absorption de rayons γe très haute fréquence par projection de noyaux légers’, Comptes rendus (1932) 194, pp. 708711Google Scholar.

77 Chadwick, J., ‘Possible existence of a neutron’, Nature (27 February 1932) 129, p. 312Google Scholar.

78 There were a vast number of letters about neutron research published in Nature during the 1930s. For examples of letters involving research on neutrons and neutron-induced radioactivity see Iwanenko, D., ‘The neutron hypothesis’, Nature (28 May 1932) 129, p. 798Google Scholar; Curie, Irène and Joliot, F., ‘New evidence for the neutron’, Nature (9 July 1932) 130, p. 57Google Scholar; Feather, Norman, ‘Artificial disintegration by neutrons’, Nature (13 August 1932) 130, p. 237Google Scholar; de Broglie, M. le Duc and Leprince-Ringuet, L., ‘Absorption of boron neutrons by lead’, Nature (27 August 1932) 130, p. 315Google Scholar; Tamm, Ig., ‘Exchange forces between neutrons and protons, and Fermi's theory’, Nature (30 June 1934) 133, p. 981Google Scholar; Szilard, Leo and Chalmers, T.A., ‘Radioactivity induced by neutrons’, Nature (19 January 1935) 135, pp. 9899Google Scholar; Ehrenberg, W. and Shan, Hu Chien, ‘Absorption of slow neutrons’, Nature (15 June 1935) 135, pp. 993994Google Scholar; Kikuchi, Seishi, Aoki, Hiroo and Husimi, Kodi, ‘Emission of beta-rays from substances bombarded with neutrons’, Nature (14 November 1936) 138, p. 841Google Scholar.

79 Hahn, Otto and Strassmann, Fritz, ‘Über den Nachweis und das Verhalten der bei der Bestrahlung des Urans mittels Neutronen entstehenden Erdalkalimetalle’, Naturwissenschaften (1939) 27, p. 1115Google Scholar.

80 Meitner, Lise and Frisch, Otto, ‘Disintegration of uranium by neutrons: a new type of nuclear reaction’, Nature (11 February 1939) 143, p. 239Google Scholar.

81 ‘News and views’, Nature (12 November 1938) 142, p. 865.

82 See, for example, Frisch, O.R. and Sørensen, E.T., ‘Velocity of slow neutrons’, Nature (17 August 1935) 136, p. 258Google Scholar; Frisch, O.R., Hevesy, G. and McKay, H.A.C., ‘Selective absorption of neutrons by gold’, Nature (25 January 1936) 137, pp. 149150Google Scholar; Frisch, O.R. and Placzek, G., ‘Capture of slow neutrons’, Nature (29 February 1936) 137, p. 357Google Scholar; Frisch, O.R., von Halban, H. Jr. and Koch, Jørgen, ‘A method of measuring the magnetic moment of free neutrons’, Nature (1 May 1937) 139, pp. 756757Google Scholar; Frisch, O.R., von Halban, H. jun., and Koch, Jørgen, ‘Sign of the magnetic moment of free neutrons’, Nature (12 June 1937) 139, p. 1021Google Scholar; Frisch, O.R., von Halban, H. Jun., and Koch, Jørgen, ‘Capture of slow neutrons in light elements’, Nature (20 November 1937) 140, p. 895Google Scholar.

83 For examples of international letters on genetics see Gatenby, J. Brontë, ‘Czechoslovakian cytology’, Nature (4 August 1928) 122, p. 168Google Scholar; Capinpin, M. José, ‘Chromosome behaviour of triploid Œnothera’, Nature (27 September 1930) 126, pp. 469470Google Scholar; Sidorov, B.N., Sokolov, N.N. and Trofimov, I.E., ‘Forces of attraction of homologous loci and chromosome conjugation’, Nature (20 July 1935) 136, pp. 108109Google Scholar; Frolova, S., ‘Development of the inert regions of the salivary gland chromosomes of Drosophila’, Nature (20 August 1938) 142, pp. 357358Google Scholar; Klingstedt, Holger, ‘Genetics of hybrid sterility’, Nature (24 December 1938) 142, p. 1118Google Scholar; Resende, Flávio, ‘Chromosome structure as observed in root tips’, Nature (9 September 1939) 144, pp. 481482Google Scholar.

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.