Scientific and medical periodicals began to appear in the late 17th century as a consequence of the development of newspapers – the increasingly common means of disseminating current information to a large, geographically dispersed audience – coinciding with the establishment and development of scientific and medical societies. In the early 17th century scientists created informal networks in which to exchange and further knowledge, mostly through correspondence. These networks grew into the formalized academies and societies of the latter part of the century. Scientific journals provided the means to record and disseminate information, news, and knowledge among the societies’ members in a timely manner.
The French Le Journal des Sçavans, generally cited as the first scientific journal, debuted in January 1665. Just three months later the first English scientific journal, Philosophical Transactions, began monthly publication. In 1797, the first U.S. medical journal, the Medical Repository, was printed in New York City. By 1800, about thirty scientific and medical journals had been established. By 1900, there were over 700.
The Becker Library’s Rare Medical Periodicals Collection includes almost 350 titles and over 11,000 volumes, dating from the late 17th century to the 20th century.
Image: Plate from the French journal, Archives générales de médecine, which began publication in 1823.