Including History

David A. Kronick

    It was my good fortune some fifty years ago to find a dissertation subject that has engaged me for over a half century. The subject was the origins and development of the scientific journal beginning with the scientific revolution in the seventeenth century, which provided the impetus for its origins, and ending with the chemical revolution at the end of the-eighteenth century-a period in which journals had greatly proliferated. I did not know when I started how widely these journals were dispersed and that it would provide me with an incentive to visit great libraries when I had the opportunities to travel in Great Britain and Europe. In fact it led a friend to suggest that I was motivated by an urge to travel more than a zeal for scholarship.
    The subject, as you can imagine, has many ramifications: in the history of science, sociology, economics, and philosophy, which with the best intentions I was not able to explore adequately. It was enough, however, to learn that the issues which were relevant then such as efforts to maintain the quality of the scientific literature, editorial methods and policy, determination of priority, secrecy and disclosure, etc. were much like the issues which engage us in scientific documentation today.
    One of the conclusions I reached in my dissertation was that the scientific journal as it was invented, fulfilled two distinct and different functions; first it served as a vehicle to disseminate information and then served as a depository, from which relevant items could be retrieved at demand. This finding, of course, did not startle anyone, because it was obvious that a single instrument which could serve both purposes was very efficient. It provided for a continuous flow of information, a means of quality control and a location and citation capability. It could do so effectively, however, only if the necessary supporting secondary instruments that could provide the access to the depository-were also developed. These kinds of instrument began to appear early in the history of the scientific journal and have been enlarged, refined and modified ever since.
    The technology for the development of the journal was in existence for over two hundred years beginning with the invention of printing in the last half of the fifteenth century before it was applied to the dissemination of scientific information. Today we are faced with a new technology which may have an equally important influence on the methods of disseminating and storing scientific information and in fact may be able to integrate the two functions and eliminate the necessity of waiting for periodicity in publication. This may not inaugurate the "paperless society" which was being predicted a few years ago and which is easily refuted by anyone visiting a library photocopy room or computer search station, but will provide new challenges and opportunities.

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