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Royal Society Opens Free Online Archive 68

greenechidna writes "The Register reports that the Royal Society has put its archives online. From the article: 'One of the world's most important historical records will be made available online for the first time today. All the Royal Society's journals are free for two months and include stone-cold scientific classics going back to 1665 and the foundations of modern inquiry.'" You can set up your own account at the Royal Society; if you follow the link in the Reg article, you get logged in to some random account.
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Royal Society Opens Free Online Archive

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  • DNA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by neonprimetime ( 528653 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @10:20AM (#16104140) Homepage
    If you're bored at work, read this.

    Watson and Crick's discovery of DNA (1954) [royalsoc.ac.uk] - requires no introduction really
    • At the end of the paper, Crick and Watson state "We are most indebted to Dr M.H.F. Wilkins both for informing us of unpublished experimental observations and for the benefit of numerous discussions."

      Does that include Rosalyn Franklin's picture [npr.org] that Wilkins showed them without her permission?

  • by BadMrMojo ( 767184 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @10:21AM (#16104150)
    Mobbed by Stephenson fans in 3... 2... 1...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The early materials are the real-life achievements of Neal Stephenson's real characters in his "Baroque Cycle" (the novels starting with Quicksilver [amazon.com] ), so if you liked the books, this should be exciting news for anyone wanting to know more about science in that period.
    • by Megajim ( 885529 )
      I've been searching that thing for two hours and I can't find a single article written by Daniel Waterhouse!
      • Oh, that's easy. You're searching for Daniel Waterhouse in normal English, when everyone knows that his name is recorded only in the Real characters!
  • Ra Ra Ra (Score:3, Funny)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @10:32AM (#16104266) Homepage Journal
    Now will their Egyptian counterpart step up and one up them, offering free online access to 3000 years of archived research? Where's the URL for "What the stars look like 180 days before the Nile overflows its banks"?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Now will their Egyptian counterpart step up and one up them, offering free online access to 3000 years of archived research? Where's the URL for "What the stars look like 180 days before the Nile overflows its banks"?

      Unfortunately much of the contents of the library of Alexandria burned centuries ago.

      • Re:Ra Ra Ra (Score:5, Informative)

        by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:25AM (#16104795) Homepage Journal
        Actually, the Alexandria Library loss is largely myth. Sure, the library was burned. But ancient libraries, much like today's, did not house only unique copies. The ancient tradition of transcription was not solely to preserve "books" (usually scrolls and decks of leaves) serially in time, but also in parallel in space. There were many ancient libraries holding many of the same books.

        Moreover, many of the Alexandria books weren't burned. They were "put into general circulation", both into the hands of centuries of attackers [wikipedia.org] like the Arabs from whom European Crusaders (and their campfollower merchats) brought them to the rest of Europe for the first time, and throughout the area many times when security was breached. And of course there are the really ancient works written in stone monuments, artifacts and jewelry.

        Ancient Egypt's working civilization lasted for thousands of years, inspiring its culture of actual immortality. Essential to it was a system of info transfer that would survive all kinds of unexpected disasters. If one burning library could wipe it out, we'd never have heard of it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by CxDoo ( 918501 )
          Library of Alexandria was established by Greek dynasty and has little to do with ancient Egyptian civilization, about which, btw, we indeed knew very little before Napoleon's Egyptian Expedition.
          • Library of Alexandria was established by Greek dynasty and has little to do with ancient Egyptian civilization, about which, btw, we indeed knew very little before Napoleon's Egyptian Expedition.

            1) The first point is true, but that still does pretty danged far back. Also, much of what was collected at that time did include older knowledge, so the original library would have included some rather old knowledge. 2) The second point depends on the "we." The western world knew much about ancient Egypt at on

        • I'm guessing someone would have noticed the pyramids.
    • This is what you asked for, I hope you can read Coptic, Demotic, Hieratic, and Kemetic Heiroglyphics.

      Have fun.

      http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/projects/digital/a pis/search/ [columbia.edu]
      • I hope some among the many people in the public who can now view the images of the originals can translate and interpret them. That's open-source archeology. Which sounds like fun.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anon-Admin ( 443764 )
          I dont see an opensource project on that. It would be nice but the number of people that can read Demotic and Hieratic is small. Many more can read Coptic, Kemetic Heiroglyphics and those could get translated.

          I can only think of about 12 people who can translte Hieratic, and only another 13 or 14 that can transpose the Hieratic chacters to Kemetic Heiroglyphics.

          It would be fun, but if you translate it and write it into a book you can re-copyright the works (my understanding of current copyright law)

          I can se
          • There's no project, but the source is open at the URL you posted. Some "HOWTOs" by the couple of dozen specialists could therefore revolutionize the field. Even if the rest of the project were just supporting the "decoders".

            If it were my field, I'd be getting funding from pharmacos for decoding, if I could keep the products open / public domain / CC.
          • FWIW, the fortune at the bottom of this page from which I'm posting this comment says "Building translators is good clean fun. -- T. Cheatham"
    • They've had to resort to taking photos of the stele, as the scanners kept getting crushed. And here "scanners" mean the people sent out to do crayon rubbings.
  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @10:33AM (#16104270) Journal
    Nothing like perusing such illustrious titles as:

    Matter and its Travels Through the Ether

    Mercury: The Miracle Metal for What Ails You

    How to Calculate Your Longitudinal Position in Only One Hundred Steps

    Gravity: Just a Theory

    Calculations for Determining the Age of the Earth Based on the Life Expectancy of Asses

    A Treatise on Determining if Women on Ships Cause Shipwrecks

    An Examination of Cthulhu and Whether It is Responsible for the Laying of Unknown Bones on the Tops of Mountains
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Goblez ( 928516 )
      A Treatise on Determining if Women on Ships Cause Shipwrecks

      Well, at least we know some of them had merit. Isn't this the same with women in cars?

    • by radtea ( 464814 )
      A Treatise on Determining if Women on Ships Cause Shipwrecks

      Damn right!

      Scientific exploration of folk belief is one of the fundamental contributions of the Enlightenment to civilization.

      But if you really want to see something interesting, read the paper immediately following Newton's 1720 publication. You'll never look at the cowpox myth the same way again.
  • by joe 155 ( 937621 )
    Just incase anyone who's reading the old stuff doesn't use English as their first language you might be interested to note that when you see words which look like the contain an "f" without the middle bar it is actually an "s"... I guess it's just evolved a bit, but it can be confusing to figure out
    • its actually a capital S. the lowercase ones are still there.
      • by sisina ( 849900 )
        its actually a capital S. the lowercase ones are still there.

        No, the f-looking thing is a lowercase s. What you're seeing are probably terminal s's (s's at the end of a word), which look the same as our modern s.

        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Just the opposite - terminal s looks like f - the character is in most font sets: & #383; (slashcode garbles things up), and is called typically called a long s.

          Period internal s's are similar to the modern s, unless it's being used as part of an 'es' group that some writers perfered to style as a long s, or when preceding a 't', but not starting the word.

          -Ashmoore, grad student lingist.
          • I'm nearly certain this is incorrect. As a few specific examples I can think of easily, the manuscript of Benjamin Franklin's autobiography does not follow this, and Bickham's Universal Penman also does not follow what you are saying. Wikipedia's article (Long s) also directly disagrees with what you are saying. Perhaps you meant non-terminal s when you said terminal s?

            If I recall correctly, I have also seen a variety of cases where a long s was used as a medial s in situations other than what you are descr
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        No, it is a lowercase s.

        The "long s" looks like a letter f without the horizontal bar. The "short s" looks like the familiar letter s. Short s is used at the end of words. The Greek alphabet does the same kind of thing with lowercase letter sigma.

        Wikipedia sez: Long S [wikipedia.org]

        The funny thing is, it turns out that this style of writing is where the character ß (used in German) comes from. I'd always just assumed it was borrowed from Greek.
    • by john83 ( 923470 )
      Actually, German speakers might recognise it from the origins of the scharfes s.
    • by treeves ( 963993 )
      Gee. . .I thought it came from the integral symbol.
  • Although a great gesture, this has far less use than I had hoped.

    I've checked out a few of their articles so far, and they all have one conspicuous show-stopping problem: These consist of PDFs of scanned images.

    Not error-corrected OCRs of scanned images, but the actual images. Great for historians, I suppose, but absolutely bloody useless for searching.

    So - Thanks guys, I honestly do appreciate this, but your collection of (text) abstracts would prove more useful than your entire archive of images.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 14, 2006 @10:45AM (#16104385)
      Although a great gesture, this has far less use than I had hoped.

      While I agree that having searchable text would be handy, keep in mind that what you are looking at is what people had to contend with for the past 350 years. They managed to do okay with it.
    • by JesseL ( 107722 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @10:56AM (#16104519) Homepage Journal
      Not error-corrected OCRs of scanned images, but the actual images. Great for historians, I suppose, but absolutely bloody useless for searching.

      Well it's all there for you - get to work.
    • Well, would be nice to have 2 sets for the same document:
      - ocr for text search (may be an automated translated document for fast search)
      - original detailed image for research

      in a page like: see as image (click here), see as html (click here)
      may be a xml index would be nice too :)
    • I'm actually really amazed at the type. It's very interesting. It's so clear.
      They must have typeset it all by hand using metal templates.

      I'm sure they could have benefitted from LaTeX back then... ;-)

      (The DNA article does look almost like it was typeset in LaTeX.)

      I'm surprised at the shape of the 's'. It looks like an 'f'! I had no idea they used to write the letter s differently..
  • by dwm ( 151474 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @10:54AM (#16104496)
    Small correction: Edmund Stone's work described in this article [royalsoc.ac.uk] is not the discovery of aspirin (acetylsalycilic acid), but salycilic acid. Salycilic acid has about the same therapeutic effects as aspirin, but is much harder on the stomach. Aspirin was first synthesized by Bayer chemists in the late 1800s.
  • very interesting History!
  • Now I know of a good way to kill a rattlesnake [.pdf] [royalsoc.ac.uk]!
  • by supabeast! ( 84658 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:27AM (#16104823)
    Quick, somebody wget the entire site to redistribute as a torrent when they start charging!
  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:37AM (#16104955) Homepage
    One of the pleasures of graduate school was access to a very good research library. The university I was at had the Transactions of the Royal Society back to volume 1, number 1. (When I commented positively on this to a librarian, meaning I was delighted by this, she missed my point and tut-tutted, say, "Yes, I know, it's just terrible, but they won't approve the budget for expanding the Rare Books room...)

    It was fascinating to open volumes at random at publication intervals of about fifty years and see the evolution of the scientific writing style. Before 1800, it was lively and enthusiastic and communicated a sense of excitement and joy. Around the mid-1800s a transformation took place and it acquired the stodgy, distanced, passive-voice writing style that persists to this day.
    • I guess the stodgy, passive-voice writing style 'evolved' to enforce the strict 'fact only, please' stance of the Scientific Method. Emotion, joyous or not, could have been seen to interfere with the logical & rationale judgements of the reader.

       
      Then again, IANAHPS (History and Philosophy of Science) person.
    • i had also the same pleasure during my PhD thesis. Nowadays everything is locked in the basement of the library and one has to ask for specific volumes when at the time it was possible to browse. What I could notice besides the extremely clear typesetting was that before 1850 everything was printed on velin (made from old rags) which hasn't aged a bit, it looks like it was printed yesterday. Quite fun to read weather reports from London in 1720..Math and physics papers are hard to read because of the notat
  • History (Score:2, Informative)

    by ms1234 ( 211056 )
    The article says it's going to be open for 2 months. Why not longer? Information doesn't want to be public?
    • From the site:

      For the first time the Archive provides online access to all journal content, from Volume One, Issue One in March 1665 until the latest modern research published today ahead of print. And until December the archive is freely available to anyone on the internet to explore. Benjamin Franklin portraitSpanning nearly 350 years of continuous publishing, the archive of nearly 60,000 articles includes ground-breaking research and discovery from many renowned scientists including: Bohr, Boyle, Bra

    • Yes, I would like to see it online forever. It's a pity they will try to profit from this archive again.
  • I just finished reading the Baroque Cycle a few weeks ago, so this period is really fresh in my mind. (I really enjoyed it.) This is like icing on the cake...
  • Edmundo Halleio, Astronomiae Cometicae Synopsis, Autore Edmundo Halleio apud Oxonienses. Geometriae Professore Saviliano, & Reg. Soc. S., Philosophical Transactions (1683-1775), Volume 24, 01 Jan 1753, Pages 1882 - 1899
    http://www.journals.royalsoc.ac.uk/openurl.asp?gen re=article&issn=0260-7085&volume=24&spage=1882 [royalsoc.ac.uk]

    Wonderful.

    A nice discussion can be found here:

    D. W. Hughes, P. H. Fowler, Bernard Lovell, D. Lynden-Bell, P. J. Message, J. E. Wilkinson, The History of Halley's Comet [and Discuss
  • This is the experiment that led Rutherford to propose the nuclear model of the atom: http://www.journals.royalsoc.ac.uk/link.asp?id=u31 8373867x2v351 [royalsoc.ac.uk]
  • For the last couple of weeks, I have been going through these extremely good scientific lectures at the Royal Society here: Archive - complete list of webstreams [royalsoc.ac.uk]. They are available in Real and Microsoft Media Player formats.
  • The content will only be available from them for two months, does that mean someone is going to archive it all somewhere else for the rest of us since I know I'll eventually want stuff out of the archive but I won't need it that quickly.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Carthag ( 643047 )
      As soon as I saw the announcement I got out my trusty curl & wget commands, but the urls are a complete nightmare. I suspect I'll have to write a 50+ line perl script to get it done! I'm working on it, though. First I gotta clean up some space on my HD ;)
  • by Anthony ( 4077 ) * on Friday September 15, 2006 @12:18AM (#16110934) Homepage Journal

    Students at my University rarely visit the stacks these days. There are plenty of computers and a whole slew of online journals. When relating this story, I would tell people there is still a need to access the Transactions of the Royal Society. When I took my son on a tour of one of the libraries, I went straight to the Transactions and showed him a paper from the 18th century,

    Well, I was impressed.

  • It may seem nice that the Royal Society is doing this. But the free access goes away in December. And after that it is available only to subscribers or for a large fee. This is in contract, for example, with the US National Academies of Science, which makes all their publications available for free after only 6 months. The Royal Society has been fighting the Open Access movement for years and just when it seemed they might move in that direction, they back off [blogspot.com]. I cannot imagine they will make a lot o

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