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

  • MELINDA BALDWIN (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

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.

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