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‘We want no authors’: William Nicholson and the contested role of the scientific journal in Britain, 1797–1813

  • IAIN P. WATTS (a1)

This article seeks to illuminate the shifting and unstable configuration of scientific print culture around 1800 through a close focus on William Nicholson's Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, and the Arts, generally known as Nicholson's Journal. Viewing Nicholson as a mediator between the two spheres of British commercial journalism and scientific enquiry, I investigate the ways he adapted practices and conventions from the domain of general-readership monthly periodicals for his Journal, forging a virtual community of scientific knowledge exchange in print. However, in pursing this project Nicholson ran up against disreputable associations connected with the politics of journalism and came into conflict with more established models of scientific publication. To illustrate this, I turn to examine in detail the practice of reprinting, a technique of information transmission which the Journal adapted from general periodicals and newspapers, looking at a clash between Nicholson and the Royal Society that exposes disagreements over the appropriate role for journals during this period of reorganization in the scientific world.

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A version of this paper was awarded the 2012 BSHS Singer Prize.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Adrian Johns , The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998

Jonathan R. Topham , ‘Scientific publishing and the reading of science in nineteenth-century Britain: a historiographical survey and guide to sources’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science (2000) 31, pp. 559612

James Secord , ‘Knowledge in transit’, Isis (2004) 95, pp. 654672

S. Lilley , ‘Nicholson's Journal, 1797–1813’, Annals of Science (1948) 6, pp. 78101

Jonathan Topham , ‘Anthologizing the book of Nature: the circulation of knowledge and the origins of the scientific journal in late Georgian Britain’, in Bernard Lightman , Gordon McOuat and Larry Stewart (eds.), The Circulation of Knowledge between Britain, India and China: The Early-Modern World to the Twentieth Century, Leiden: Brill, 2013, pp. 119152

James McClellan , ‘The Scientific press in transition: Rozier's journal and the scientific societies in the 1770s’, Annals of Science (1979) 36, pp. 425449

Jonathan R. Topham , ‘Science, print, and crossing borders: importing French science books into Britain, 1789–1815’, in David N. Livingstone and Charles Withers (eds.), Geographies of Nineteenth-Century Science, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011, pp. 311344

Adrian Johns , Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2009

David Miller , ‘Sir Joseph Banks: an historiographical perspective’, History of Science (1981) 19, pp. 284292

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The British Journal for the History of Science
  • ISSN: 0007-0874
  • EISSN: 1474-001X
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-for-the-history-of-science
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