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Making "Nature"The History of a Scientific Journal$

Melinda Baldwin

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226261454

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226261591.001.0001

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Scientific Internationalism and Scientific Nationalism

Scientific Internationalism and Scientific Nationalism

(p.100) Chapter Four Scientific Internationalism and Scientific Nationalism
Making "Nature"

Melinda Baldwin

University of Chicago Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter focuses on the relationship between scientific publishing and scientific internationalism at the turn of the twentieth century. Nature’s speed of publication made the journal an invaluable resource for scientists working in the rapidly advancing field of radioactivity. The Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ernest Rutherford was instrumental in establishing the Letters to the Editor column as a venue for announcing new and exciting scientific findings even before a complete scientific paper had been written. The frequent contributions from physicists such as J.J. Thomson, Frederick Soddy, and most importantly Rutherford made Nature essential reading not just for British scientists but for anyone interested in the most recent advances in physics. Nature began to draw contributions on the subject from foreign scientists like Otto Hahn in Germany and Bertram Boltwood in the United States, and scientists elsewhere in the British Empire like Rutherford in Canada. Despite the growth in international contributions from physicists, however, Nature remained firmly grounded in its British roots. Other growing disciplines, such as genetics, did not attract nearly as many non-British contributors as radioactivity, and the journal remained focused on science and scientific issues in Great Britain.

Keywords:   Nature, scientific internationalism, Ernest Rutherford, radioactivity, genetics

In the summer of 1910, the great physicist Ernest Rutherford was preparing for an international scientific congress in Brussels that would establish a standard unit of radiation. Rutherford’s peers had chosen him as the chairman of the Radium Standards Committee, and he already had the size and name of the unit in mind: he wanted the unit to be the number of decays per second in 10−8 grams of radium and was pushing to call it the “curie” in honor of Pierre and Marie Curie. Rutherford hoped that his committee would accomplish more if he brought his most prominent colleagues to an agreement on the unit before the congress began. In his quest to establish the curie, Rutherford exchanged letters with researchers from across the Western world, including Stefan Meyer in Vienna, Otto Hahn in Berlin, Arthur S. Eve in Montreal, and Marie Curie in Paris, all of whom he saw in Brussels that September.1 He also discussed the matter frequently with his friend Bertram Borden Boltwood, an American from Yale University who was spending a year with Rutherford at Manchester and who was also a delegate to the Brussels conference.2

Rutherford’s multinational correspondence about the curie was not a mere show put on to demonstrate an ideal of scientific internationalism. It was an accurate reflection of the history and status of his field. Discoveries in the early history of radioactivity research came from every major scientific center in Europe, and in 1910 important work on radioactivity was being performed in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, London, Cambridge, Montreal, and New Haven, Connecticut. Radioactivity was, unquestionably, an international undertaking.3

(p.101) In contrast, the Nature we have seen thus far was unquestionably not an international undertaking. Although a handful of foreign scientists did write articles or letters for Nature, and while the journal could prove useful to men such as the American astronomer Henry Draper as a source of abstracts, Nature in the nineteenth century was a publication by and for British men of science.4 Its contents were dictated by the concerns of the British scientific community. And yet one of Nature’s most prolific early twentieth-century contributors was Rutherford, who wrote dozens of letters to the editor detailing his latest work. Why would Rutherford, who corresponded regularly with colleagues from across the globe and was on the board of two foreign radioactivity journals (Le Radium and Jahrbuch der Radioaktivität und Elektronik), choose to publish in the heavily British Nature?

In fact, Nature played a major role in spreading news of the latest research in the international science of radioactivity. Much of this was due to Rutherford, who chose Nature as a venue for some of his most important early work both because of its rapid publication schedule and in order to further his goal of obtaining a position in the United Kingdom. Rutherford’s talent for attracting promising foreign physicists to his laboratory led scientists such as Otto Hahn and Bertram Boltwood to follow his example and publish their latest work in Nature as well. However, in another similarly international field, Mendelian genetics, Nature did not attract nearly as many international contributions; the scientists who published in Nature on the subject of heredity were almost entirely British. Evaluating Nature’s role in these two fields shows that even during an era of increasing scientific internationalism, and even in fields as international as Mendelian genetics and radioactivity, a scientific worker’s national origin still shaped his or her publication strategies.

Röntgen Rays, Uranium Rays, and Radioactivity

Several important developments in the physical sciences give us the opportunity to examine Nature’s place in British scientific publishing at the end of the nineteenth century. In 1895, the German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1845–1923) noticed an interesting phenomenon while experimenting with a vacuum discharge tube (an evacuated glass vessel in which metal electrodes have been sealed): when he placed his hand between the tube and a screen coated with barium platinocyanide, the darkened image of the bones in his hand appeared on the screen. It quickly became apparent that Röntgen had discovered a new kind of wave, and “Röntgen rays” became (p.102) a scientific and popular sensation.5 (Most Anglophone scientists eventually adopted Röntgen’s preferred name for his discovery, x-rays.)

One of the many scientists inspired to study Röntgen’s new phenomenon was Henri Becquerel (1852–1908), a member of the French Académie des sciences and a professor at the prestigious École Polytechnique in Paris. Becquerel was interested in whether naturally phosphorescent minerals might also produce X-rays or other unknown rays. In March 1896 he reported an unusual finding to the Académie: one night, he had placed uranyl-potassium sulfate (a salt of uranium that phosphoresces when exposed to sunlight) in a drawer with wrapped photographic plates, and the next morning, a silhouetted image of the salts had developed on the plates. Subsequent experiments had revealed that the salts also developed photographic plates even when they had not been exposed to sunlight—the production of “uranium rays” (or, as some scientists called them, “Becquerel rays”) was not linked to the salt’s phosphorescence at all.

Marie Skłodowska Curie (1867–1934), working in her husband Pierre’s laboratory at the École Municipale de Physique in Paris, took up the study of Becquerel’s uranium rays. Curie was interested in finding other materials that might emit similar rays. She soon discovered that there were several materials—most famously, pitchblende—that not only emitted Becquerel’s “uranium rays” but emitted them much more strongly than uranium salts. Curie adopted the term radioactivity instead of “uranium rays” to describe the phenomenon that she was studying. In 1898 the Curies and the chemist Gustave Bémont announced the discovery of two new elements, polonium (named for Marie Curie’s native Poland) and radium, both of which were hundreds of times more radioactive than uranium.6

Meanwhile, across the English Channel research into x-rays and radioactivity was also taking place in Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory. J. J. Thomson (1856–1940), the laboratory’s head, was personally more interested in electricity, but he encouraged Ernest Rutherford (1871–1937), who had recently come to the Cavendish from New Zealand, to study Becquerel’s uranium rays. In 1898, Rutherford reported that there were two distinct varieties of uranium rays, which he called “alpha” and “beta.” Alpha rays were positively charged and readily absorbed by most substances, but beta rays were negatively charged and could pass through metal without being hindered. Negatively charged beta rays were quickly identified as electrons; the nature of alpha particles was less clear. In 1900, a colleague of the Curies’ named Paul Villard (1860–1934) discovered a third type of radiation, “gamma,” which was even more penetrating than beta radiation but carried no charge.

In 1898, Rutherford accepted the Macdonald Chair of Physics at McGill (p.103) University in Montreal, Canada. Two years later, the Oxford-educated chemist Frederick Soddy (1877–1956) accepted a position as a demonstrator in Rutherford’s department, and the two undertook an extremely fruitful collaboration on the study of thorium radioactivity.7 In 1902–1903, Rutherford and Soddy embarked on study of alpha radiation and discovered that alpha particles had a 1:1 mass-to-charge ratio. The two concluded that they were either hydrogen ions with a +1 charge or helium ions with a +2 charge.

Their theory that alpha particles had an elemental identity of their own led Rutherford and Soddy to suggest that radioactivity was the result of atomic disintegration and that radioactive atoms released matter as alpha, beta, and gamma rays. As a result, radioactive elements changed their elemental identity.8 The idea met with some resistance; many physicists, including the eminent William Thomson (now Lord Kelvin) and Dmitri Mendeleev, the creator of the periodic table, dismissively equated Rutherford and Soddy’s theory with the old alchemical idea of elemental transmutation.9 But J. J. Thomson and Marie Curie both came to agree that radiation was an emission of matter accompanied by a loss of weight in the radioactive substance. Following a 1903 experiment by Pierre Curie and Albert Laborde, which found that one gram of radium could heat 1.33 grams of water from the melting point to the boiling point in one hour, J. J. Thomson, the Curies, and others argued that the emission of matter must also be accompanied by an emission of energy.10

Rutherford and Soddy’s ideas about radioactive change received a boost later that year when Soddy, who had moved to University College London and was collaborating with Sir William Ramsay (1852–1916), performed a spectroscopic study of the emanations from radium salts. He detected helium, lending experimental weight to the theory that radiation was an emission of matter. In 1907–1908, Rutherford and his colleagues in Montreal undertook a spectroscopic study of alpha rays and were able to show that alpha rays were composed of helium particles.

Nature played a significant role in this remarkable thirteen years (1895–1908) of physics. Röntgen’s discovery made the news in many English-language newspapers and journals, and Nature was no exception. The Notes column of 16 January 1896 mentioned Röntgen’s findings and announced that Röntgen had used his new waves to obtain pictures “showing only the bones of living persons.” The anonymous Nature staffer predicted that “The scientific world will look forward with interest to the publication of the details of Prof. Röntgen’s work.”11 Nature’s very next issue, published on January 23, prominently featured the new discovery. The physicist Arthur Schuster wrote to the editor to urge his fellow physicists not to discard the (p.104) idea that Röntgen rays might be an unusual manifestation of light waves, a conclusion Röntgen’s paper had rejected. J. T. Bottomley’s letter noted that Röntgen’s paper had concluded with the speculation that his rays might be longitudinal vibrations in the luminiferous ether and called attention to a passage in Lord Kelvin’s Baltimore lectures that seemed to anticipate the discovery of such a wave. Most famously, this issue of Nature printed the first English-language version of Röntgen’s paper, translated by the Manchester physicist Arthur Stanton.12 The electrical engineer A. A. C. Swinton supplemented Stanton’s translation with an article in which he reported that he had “repeated many of Prof. Röntgen’s experiments with entire success.” Swinton’s article also included the first x-ray photograph taken in England.13

These letters and articles were the first in a rapid flood of pieces on the new phenomenon. In 1896, there were 139 articles in Nature that mentioned Röntgen rays, an average of nearly 3 per week. In contrast, the Philosophical Magazine contained 8 articles about Röntgen rays that year; Proceedings of the Royal Society of London ran 12 articles on the rays in 1896–1897; Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society did not run any articles on Röntgen rays until 1897. Of course, the comparison is not entirely fair. Philosophical Magazine, Proceedings, and Philosophical Transactions ran far fewer articles than Nature and had a much longer delay between submission and publication. A more direct comparison can be drawn between Nature and two other British scientific weeklies, Chemical News and the Electrician. In 1896, Chemical News mentioned Röntgen rays 28 times (an average of once every other week), the Electrician 86 (an average of 1.65 mentions per week).

Nature thus stands out for the sheer amount of its Röntgen ray coverage, but Nature’s material about Röntgen rays was not necessarily unique among scientific weeklies. The pieces in Nature included abstracts from other journals (usually foreign ones), reports of lectures about the rays, theoretical speculations like Bottomley’s letter, summary articles written by Nature’s staff, and original reports of experimental results like Swinton’s. Chemical News and the Electrician both published material on Röntgen rays similar to Nature’s. Chemical News’s coverage relied heavily on reprints of articles published elsewhere or summaries of foreign research, but a handful of researchers did send preliminary experimental results to Chemical News or submit letters about the rays to Chemical News’s occasional correspondence columns.14 Similarly, the Electrician included a large number of abstracts of foreign articles on Röntgen rays (most frequently from the Comptes Rendus) as well as summary articles about the current state of Röntgen ray research and reports on lectures about the rays. The Electrician also published correspondence (p.105) discussing the nature of the rays and a few original research articles about Röntgen ray experiments.15

The data from both the weekly and the monthly or quarterly publications underscore two important points: first, in 1896 Nature was not the only British scientific weekly where a researcher could or would submit interesting new research results, and second, scientific weeklies played a unique role in researchers’ publishing strategies at the end of the nineteenth century by offering researchers a forum where short articles could be printed quickly. Nature’s closest monthly competitor for these pieces was the Philosophical Magazine, whose Intelligence and Miscellaneous Articles section contained short pieces similar to the articles in weeklies. But the Philosophical Magazine’s monthly publication schedule usually meant a longer wait time between submission and publication than the wait for the weeklies. A few researchers sent the Philosophical Magazine pieces on Röntgen rays for Intelligence and Miscellaneous Articles in 1896, for example, but none of these pieces appeared before April.16 This suggests that specialist weeklies were able to capitalize on the intense interest in Röntgen’s discovery by offering researchers a forum where preliminary observations and theories about the nature of the rays could reach an audience of scientific specialists within a week of submission.

When compared with the avalanche of research that followed the discovery of Röntgen rays, British periodicals’ response to Becquerel’s uranium rays was quite mild. Becquerel’s discovery was mentioned several times in Nature’s Notes and in the Societies and Academies column in 1896, and J. J. Thomson devoted an article to a discussion of Becquerel’s experiment and how it might cast light on the nature of Röntgen rays, but Becquerel rays do not appear to have excited a Röntgen-like frenzy among Nature’s readers or contributors.17 Similarly, the Electrician mentioned Becquerel’s discovery only once in 1896, in a short note about recent experiments related to Röntgen rays.18 Chemical News was more enthusiastic; Crookes and his team reprinted the full version of Becquerel’s original paper on “uranium rays” and also abstracted his subsequent articles on the rays.19

It might be tempting to accuse British publications of ignoring Becquerel (with the exception of Chemical News), but in fact the limited coverage of “Becquerel rays” was typical for the physics community at the time. Initially, Becquerel’s rays appeared to be an odd phenomenon confined to uranium salts with no useful application.20 In 1896 the Académie des sciences heard approximately 100 papers about Röntgen rays but only three about Becquerel rays.21 Becquerel himself followed his discovery of Becquerel rays (p.106) with 11 months of unrelated research on optics. Most physicists did not begin to think of these rays as a phenomenon worthy of intense investigation until the Curies discovered that materials besides uranium salts were capable of emitting Becquerel rays in 1898.

Interestingly, although the Curies’ discovery sparked the imagination of the British and American popular press, specialist periodicals in Britain contained only limited coverage of the Curies’ work or their 1898 discovery.22 The Electrician, which had so thoroughly summarized the Comptes Rendus articles on Röntgen rays, contained almost no material on the Curies’ radioactivity work before 1903 (the year the Curies won the Nobel Prize). Short descriptions of the Curies’ papers appeared in the Societies and Academies and Notes sections of Nature, but in contrast to the material on Röntgen rays, no one translated their papers on radium or polonium for Nature, and few researchers in England contributed their own radioactivity work to Nature before 1900.23 In fact, the discovery of polonium and radium occasioned scarcely more coverage in Nature than Marie Curie’s work on the magnetic properties of steel in the mid-1890s.24 The Philosophical Magazine ran only one article from the Curies, a summary of a recent paper in the Comptes Rendus de l’Académie des Sciences, in February 1900.25 As with Becquerel, Chemical News led the British coverage of the Curies’ radioactivity work, reprinting both a shortened English version of the Curies’ November 1899 Comptes Rendus paper on radioactivity and a full translation of Marie Curie’s doctoral thesis in 1903.26

The coverage of radioactivity in British publications was limited compared with the coverage of Röntgen rays largely because few researchers in England contributed their own radioactivity work to British weeklies or scientific society journals before 1903. Before 1903, there were only four articles in the Philosophical Magazine about radioactivity, and articles on radioactivity in the Proceedings or the Philosophical Transactions did not become a regular occurrence until after 1903. In March 1902, the staff of the Electrician even remarked on the limited British coverage of Becquerel rays and the Curies’ research in their “Notes” column, writing,

Whether from lack of interest or merely through ignorance of the interesting experiments which had been carried out by M. Becquerel, M. and Mdme. Curie, and a few others, surprisingly little attention has been devoted in this country to the subject of Becquerel rays and the theory underlying these remarkable “radio-active” bodies.27

The Curies’ absence in Nature and other British journals was not simply a matter of British publications ignoring French scientists. Unlike Henri Becquerel, (p.107) who occasionally wrote articles for Nature, the Curies chose not to publish in Nature or, indeed, in any English-language publications. Their publications of choice were the Comptes Rendus and, after 1904, the new publication Le Radium.28 The Curies’ focus on publishing in France rather than overseas is not surprising when we consider their career trajectory in the late 1890s. Biographies of the Curies have consistently pointed out that Marie and Pierre considered themselves outsiders in the French academic community. Pierre was the son of a Communard with no family ties to the academic establishment, and Marie was Polish by birth (and a woman besides). Once again, the well-connected Becquerel provides us with a useful contrast to the Curies: Becquerel was the son and grandson of men who held the chair in physics at the Sorbonne, and in time his son would follow in the family business and hold that chair as well. In the insular and hierarchical French academic community, personal connections and professional status were often closely tied, and neither of the Curies had the sort of social connections that might have smoothed their path to academic success.29 In February 1898 (five months before they submitted their paper on the discovery of polonium to the Académie), Pierre’s application for a professorship at the Sorbonne was denied, and the couple was having some difficulty making ends meet financially. When the couple’s radioactivity research first began attracting attention in the scientific community, they were unquestionably more focused on obtaining recognition in France than from the rest of the world.

Only after they were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1903 did Pierre and Marie Curie achieve significant recognition for their work in France. (The Curies shared the Prize with Becquerel; the three were acknowledged jointly for their work on radioactivity.) But their scientific recognition came with a great deal of public attention. The Curies found much of the newspaper coverage of their discovery and the subsequent public interest in their domestic life disruptive and irritating. It is possible that they were simply not interested in courting wider international fame by reaching out to English-language journals. Moreover, by 1903, there was arguably a new international leader in radioactivity research who had overtaken both Becquerel and the Curies: Ernest Rutherford at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

Radioactivity, Ernest Rutherford, and Nature

Ernest Rutherford was a New Zealander who had come to Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory with the support of an 1851 Exhibition Scholarship in 1894—the first year the scholarships were open to students born in the colonies.30 (p.108) J. J. Thomson, the Cavendish’s celebrated leader, would remain Rutherford’s most important mentor throughout his career. The young New Zealander worked at Cambridge until 1898 when he was named to a vacant professorship of physics at McGill.31

Rutherford, who was only twenty-seven years old, had not expected to receive the McGill position despite Thomson’s enthusiastic recommendation. When he wrote to his fiancée Mary Newton about the post, he warned her that “There would probably be big competition for it, all over England. … I think it is extremely doubtful that I will compete for it.”32 McGill was a highly desirable appointment for a research physicist; the university was well funded, and its Macdonald Physics Laboratory was one of the best-equipped research laboratories in the world.33

The major disadvantage of Rutherford’s job at McGill was its location. As we shall see from Rutherford’s correspondence, despite the presence of colleagues such as Frederick Soddy, the young physicist felt intellectually isolated in Montreal. The Macdonald Physics Laboratory, however well equipped with instruments, could not replace the sense of intellectual community Rutherford had experienced at the Cavendish Laboratory. But intellectual isolation was not the only perceived consequence of Rutherford’s remote “colonial” appointment. In November 1899, Rutherford sent a paper to the Philosophical Magazine titled “Radioactivity produced in Substances by the Action of Thorium Compounds.” Rutherford believed that his results, which suggested that radioactive thorium could induce radioactivity in other substances, were some of his most interesting and important findings to date. But just two weeks after he submitted his paper, he discovered something most unwelcome: his chief competitors in the field of radioactivity research, Becquerel and the Curies, had just published a new article in the Comptes Rendus in which they argued that radium and polonium could induce “excited radioactivity” in other substances.34 By the time Rutherford’s paper appeared in the February issue of the Philosophical Magazine, his findings were no longer as groundbreaking as he had initially believed. His paper ended in a morose footnote acknowledging that the Curies had been the first to publish about excited radioactivity.35

Being scooped by his French rivals was a blow to the ambitious Rutherford, who was extremely concerned about establishing priority for his work. Rutherford’s biographer David Wilson writes that losing the race to be first on excited radioactivity taught Rutherford “the hard lesson of the sheer distance of Canada from the centers of scientific activity in Europe where researchers could get their results printed, and claim priority of discovery, (p.109) within a few days of submitting their work.”36 A letter Rutherford wrote to his mother in 1900 underlines his competitive spirit as well as his desire to publish his work quickly:

I have to keep going as there are always people on my track. I have to publish my present work as rapidly as possible in order to keep in the race. The best sprinters in this road of investigation are Becquerel and the Curies in Paris who have done a great deal of very important work in the subject of radioactive bodies during the last few years.37

But Rutherford’s misfortune was Nature’s gain. There were three major publications where Rutherford sent his work: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Philosophical Magazine, and Nature. Before the 1899 excited radioactivity scoop, Rutherford had not contributed to Macmillan’s weekly. That would soon change. Both the Proceedings and the Philosophical Magazine had significant lag times between submission and publication (the Proceedings averaged six months, the Philosophical Magazine three), which made Nature and its weekly turnaround uniquely valuable to the priority-conscious Rutherford.38 Nature, which still published its letters to the editor the same week they were submitted, fulfilled both Rutherford’s desire to publish in Europe and his need to minimize the delay caused by sending submissions across the Atlantic. Rutherford contributed over a dozen letters to the editor between 1901 and 1908 (when he moved to the position at Manchester).39

Interestingly, Rutherford’s desire to publish quickly did not lead him to submit to other weeklies besides Nature. Although Chemical News regularly covered Rutherford’s papers and lectures, and although he and Soddy published a multipart article on thorium emanations in Chemical News in 1902, after Soddy left McGill Rutherford ceased to contribute articles to Chemical News.40 Similarly, although Thomson had sent an abstract of one of Rutherford’s forthcoming articles to the Electrician while Rutherford was at Cambridge, Rutherford did not send his own experimental findings to that publication either.41 Why Nature and not Chemical News or the Electrician—especially given that Chemical News had been far more interested in radioactivity than Nature? It was partly a question of discipline. Chemical News catered to Britain’s chemists. Soddy identified as a chemist, but Rutherford viewed himself as a physicist (and was, indeed, rather bemused when he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry), which explains why Rutherford coauthored with Soddy but did not write pieces for Chemical News on his own. Similarly, the Electrician aimed itself at an audience of engineers and industrial scientists; Rutherford considered himself neither. Rutherford’s choice (p.110) of Nature over other weeklies was probably also about the relative prestige of these publications. As early as the 1870s and 1880s, scientific researchers in Great Britain were choosing Nature over other weeklies because it reached “the right people” (as Chemical News editor William Crookes put it). Publishing in Nature legitimized one’s work in a way that publishing in other weeklies did not.42

Interestingly, Rutherford also did not make use of another weekly publication, Science, which also had a correspondence column (called Discussion and Correspondence) and whose New York editorial offices were much closer to Montreal than Nature’s London offices. Nor did Rutherford publish much work in Canadian journals, even though his submissions could have reached those journals faster than they could reach journals in Great Britain. Rutherford’s British-focused publishing strategy suggests that in addition to concerns about priority and prestige, Rutherford also sought to reach the right national audience. Rutherford’s personal correspondence reveals a strong feeling that Montreal was distant both geographically and intellectually from the centers of the physics world. In March 1901, Rutherford wrote to his mentor Thomson to seek advice on whether he should apply for the chair of physics at the University of Edinburgh, which had recently been vacated by the retirement of Peter Guthrie Tait. The letter acknowledged the excellent facilities at McGill but expressed some frustration at Montreal’s distance from other scientific centers.

After the years in the Cavendish I feel myself rather out of things scientific, and greatly miss the opportunities of meeting men interested in physics. Outside the small circle of the laboratory it is seldom I meet anyone to hear what is being done elsewhere. I think that this feeling of isolation is the great drawback to colonial appointments, for unless one is prepared to stagnate, one feels badly the want of scientific intercourse.43

Rutherford ultimately decided not to apply for the Edinburgh chair, reasoning that the field of candidates was likely to be quite large and would include some of Tait’s former protégés. But it appears that he continued to feel isolated in his “colonial appointment” over the next few years. In 1906, Rutherford again brought up his feeling of isolation when telling his mother of the offer at Manchester:

I have received the offer of the Physics Chair at Manchester. I think it quite likely I shall accept. I think it is a wise move for a variety of reasons. I shall receive a better salary and be director of the laboratory and what is most important to me, will be nearer the centre of things scientifically.44

(p.111) Rutherford’s career goals probably explain his reluctance to direct his work to North American periodicals even though they might have been able to get his work into print more quickly than British periodicals. Although Canada was a self-governing British colony, the political connection did not guarantee that British professors back in the “home country” would be aware of papers published in Canadian journals. Correspondence in Lockyer’s personal papers—including a letter from Rutherford about Nature’s coverage of a recent appointment to the Canadian Geological Survey—suggests that there was a strong feeling in the Canadian scientific community that Canadian accomplishments did not always receive their due in the United Kingdom.45 Rutherford may have been concerned that publishing in North American journals would cause his work to be overlooked in Britain and in Europe. Publishing in British journals increased the likelihood that radioactivity physicists in Europe’s scientific centers would read Rutherford’s papers. It also helped ensure that Rutherford’s name was familiar to British universities who might be looking for a new professor of physics. Notably, before moving to Manchester, Rutherford turned down offers of physics professorships from Victoria University College in New Zealand, the University of Western Australia, and Columbia University in New York, suggesting that his true goal was to return to the United Kingdom.46

Radioactivity and Changes in Nature

Rutherford’s use of Nature affected not only his own career but the journal as well. Lawrence Badash has argued that Rutherford “transformed the letters-to-the-editor section of Nature from one of genteel comments on scientific activity and reports of the first robin of spring, to announcements of the greatest fundamental importance and hard-hitting scientific controversy.”47 This observation is not entirely accurate—as we have seen, Nature was a forum for “hard-hitting scientific controversy” well before Rutherford started contributing, and many of those discussions were far from “genteel.” However, Rutherford did make a significant mark on Nature by establishing the Letters to the Editor column as a major venue for priority claims, a development that helped set Nature even farther apart from other scientific weeklies in Great Britain.

When George J. Romanes, E. Ray Lankester, John Perry, and the rest of Nature’s prolific nineteenth-century contributors composed letters to the editor of Nature, their letters were generally counterparts to longer forthcoming papers or focused commentaries on someone else’s work. But Rutherford, (p.112) like the researchers who had written to Nature about Röntgen rays, used letters to the editor as an end in themselves. Rutherford did not wait until he had a full paper in press for the Philosophical Magazine or the Proceedings to send an abstract to Nature; he sent his most interesting experimental results immediately, both as a way of keeping his colleagues updated on his work and as insurance against being scooped as he had in 1899. During his years at McGill, Rutherford wrote frequent letters to Nature filled with data and experimental observations about the heating effects of radioactivity, the amount of helium emanating from radium, the dependence of radioactivity on the concentration of radioactive materials, and the electrical charge on the alpha rays emitted from radium. These updates from one of the world’s preeminent radioactivity physicists made Nature indispensable to anyone working on radioactivity—not just in Britain, but in Canada, the United States, Paris, Berlin, and Vienna. Rutherford would continue submitting letters even after returning to the United Kingdom, albeit less frequently than he had before, suggesting that Nature was still part of his publishing strategy but no longer as vital a part as it had been when he worked at McGill.48

Rutherford’s personal correspondence also shows that Nature played a significant role in spreading news of the latest radioactivity research, especially among researchers living outside Europe. In the correspondence between Rutherford and the American physicist Bertram Borden Boltwood, for example, both men frequently mentioned Nature as a place to print their own articles and an important source of information about others’ research.49 Boltwood, arguably the most important radioactivity physicist in the United States, had obtained his PhD from Yale in 1897 and began his career as a consulting chemist.50 He conducted research out of his own private laboratory in New Haven until his appointment as an assistant professor of physics at Yale in 1906.

Like Rutherford, Boltwood struggled with the disadvantages of being at a distance from major radioactivity research centers such as Paris and Cambridge. Nature proved invaluable as a source of pertinent abstracts and as a place to publish his work. In an April 1905 letter to Rutherford about his work on the radioactive decay series, Boltwood wrote, “I have held up this letter somewhat, hoping to find some details of the R.S. paper on the new (?) element ‘which gives off thorium emanation’ in the Nature which came last night. Now that I know that it comes from thorianite, I am also willing to bet that it is Th-X.”51 A 1906 letter from Boltwood illustrates the American’s practice of sending preliminary results both to American journals and to Nature. Boltwood wrote to share some new results on the radioactive decay (p.113) series and told Rutherford, “I have sent off a brief communication to the Editor of Nature and a note for the December number of the Am. Jour.”52 Similarly, Rutherford frequently referred to recent pieces in Nature when discussing scientific matters with Boltwood. In June 1904, for example, he assured Boltwood that Soddy’s recent findings in Nature did not disprove Boltwood’s own theories, writing, “I would not lay any especial stress on negative results of attempts to grow radium as in Soddy’s letter to Nature.”53 Rutherford’s letters also refer to sending early results to Nature; in October 1906 he wrote, “I have done a few expts. recently which show that the emanations are completely absorbed in cocoanut charcoal at ordinary temperatures. … You will see an account in Nature of the same in a week or so.”54 Even after Rutherford’s return to England, Nature continued to feature heavily in the letters between Rutherford and Boltwood.55

The Rutherford-Boltwood correspondence further reveals that Nature remained a host for controversial discussions in the twentieth century. After Soddy left McGill in 1902, Rutherford and Boltwood found themselves butting heads with both Soddy and William Ramsay over the radioactive decay series.56 Rutherford retained a fondness for the eccentric Soddy, but his opinion of Ramsay was quite negative, even hostile; Boltwood appears to have been largely indifferent to Ramsay but found himself the target of Soddy’s spirited attacks more often than he would have liked. In July 1907, Rutherford wrote to his friend to tell him that the Nature editorial staff had consulted him about a recent letter Boltwood submitted to the journal:

By the way, between ourselves, your letter to Nature re Soddy’s attack was forwarded to me to report whether it was not too personal for publication. I replied that Soddy’s letter was extremely personal & provocative and that your letter was far more restrained!! than Soddy’s; otherwise your letter would have been returned with thanks.57

Boltwood wrote back to thank Rutherford for encouraging publication of his letter:

I spent over a week trying to compose a decently polite reply to his communication. … I suspected that it had been held up somewhere because of the delay in its publication. By your approval of it you not only did me a good turn but you saved for me my high opinion of the fairness of Nature which would certainly have gone by the board if they had been unwilling to let me defend myself.58

The Boltwood-Soddy exchanges nicely highlight some of the continuities in Nature between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Nature remained (p.114) a center for controversial scientific discussions, and some of those discussions could become personal. However, it is worth noting that unlike the members of the X Club, who had accused Lockyer of editorial bias, Boltwood praised Nature’s “fairness.” It is also worth noting that Lockyer and Gregory consulted another contributor, Rutherford, when they questioned whether to publish Boltwood’s letter—a contrast to the days when Lockyer simply made the decisions about which letters might be too personal.

While the Curies remained at most an ephemeral presence in Nature, other international radioactivity scientists followed Rutherford, Soddy, and Boltwood onto the pages of Nature. The most notable among these was Otto Hahn, a future Nobel Prize winner (for the discovery of uranium fission) who worked at McGill with Rutherford in 1905–1906. Like Rutherford and other Anglophone colleagues, Hahn soon adopted the practice of writing to Nature about interesting preliminary results.59 This was probably due to Hahn’s desire to keep his English-speaking colleagues updated on his work but also speaks to a perceived underdevelopment of radioactivity research in his native Germany. In June 1907, for example, Hahn wrote to Rutherford to share the good news that he had passed his examinations to become a privatdozent (an instructor at the university level), which he attributed to the fact that his examiners “were so terror stricken that they asked only some simple radioactive questions about the matter and did not want to hear anything else.” In the same letter, Hahn also spoke of feeling “lonely among all these chemists who don’t really believe in radioactivity” now that he had returned to Germany.60

National and International Contributors: Mendelian Heredity as a Contrasting Example

In the nineteenth century, Nature was a publication that was strongly focused on scientific issues in the United Kingdom. The journal did have subscribers abroad, but such readers were not its target audience, and Nature was not regarded as a publication with any special international prominence. In 1879, for example, Lockyer’s Parisian friend Maurice Berthelot encouragingly told Lockyer that “[Nature] is, I think, the most informative scientific journal in England,” but Berthelot himself did not contribute to it.61

It might be tempting to watch men such as Boltwood and Hahn follow Rutherford onto Nature’s pages and conclude that Nature was becoming more international. But a closer examination of the journal reveals that Nature was still a very British publication. Even a passing glance through (p.115) Nature’s articles and editorials reveals a strongly British focus. Nature editorials frequently addressed themselves to the British scientific community or the British government specifically. Examples include a lead editorial in 1902 urging the British crown to charter an organization for humanistic studies similar to the Royal Society, or a 1904 editorial by Sir William Abney that criticized Britain for not giving its sciences sufficient financial support.62 The journal’s reaction to the deaths of Queen Victoria in 1901 and King Edward in 1910 was perhaps the clearest indication of Nature’s British roots. On both occasions, Nature devoted its lead editorials to the praise and mourning of both monarchs, and the journal’s pages bore black outlines.63

Notably, Nature contributors did not write articles bemoaning the status of science in non-British countries or calling on foreign governments for more support of science. Such calls and complaints in Nature were aimed exclusively at Great Britain. Articles about science in other countries were not entirely absent, of course. But these articles were written largely by British contributors and presented as either human-interest stories for the edification of British readers or as excuses to compare British support of science unfavorably with other countries.64 A good example of both aims is a 1906 article on Rutherford’s laboratory at McGill. Arthur S. Eve, the piece’s author, was an English scientist who had recently moved to Canada to work with Rutherford.65 The article opened with effusive praise—not for Rutherford, but for William Macdonald, the wealthy Canadian industrialist whose generosity had paid for the construction of the McGill physics building. Eve went on to chide wealthy fellow Englishmen for failing to follow Macdonald’s example.66

Otto Hahn’s reminiscences about his days in Rutherford’s McGill laboratory include a story about this very article:

Early in the year 1906, a photographer came to the Macdonald Physics Building to take a photograph of Rutherford working in his laboratory, for publication in the columns of Nature. … In the opinion of the photographer, however, the already famous professor was not dressed elegantly enough for the readers of Nature. Not even cuffs were to be seen peeping from the sleeves of his coat! But the photographer found a way out; I was to lend Rutherford my loose cuffs. They were so arranged that they protruded well beyond the end of the sleeves. The photographer expressed satisfaction with the new photograph. As a result … we see not only Professor Rutherford seated alongside the apparatus with which he carried out his epoch-making experiments on the alpha-rays, but also one of the cuffs of a young research student.67

Scientific Internationalism and Scientific Nationalism

Figure 6 Nature photograph of Ernest Rutherford, complete with Otto Hahn’s cuffs. From Arthur S. Eve, “Some Scientific Centres: VIII. The Macdonald Physics Building, Mc-Gill University, Montreal,” Nature 74 (19 July 1906): 273.

Reprinted by permission of the Nature Publishing Group.

The photographer’s insistence that Rutherford be “elegantly” attired for the sake of the Nature readership also reflects the journal’s British orientation. Whether or not Rutherford wore cuffs in the photograph seems to have been of little concern to Rutherford himself, but for Nature, he had to abide by the standards of dress British readers would expect from a famous professor of physics.

We find further evidence of Nature’s continuing Britishness in the journal’s discussions of Mendelian inheritance. Like radioactivity, genetics was an international field from its very beginning. Between April and July 1900, three European scientists—Hugo de Vries in Amsterdam, Carl Correns in Munich, and Erich Tschermak in Vienna—each published a paper in a German botanical journal, the Berichte der deutschen botanischen Gesellschaft, detailing experimental work on heredity and citing the work of a then obscure Austrian monk, Gregor Mendel.68 Many scientists across Europe were fascinated (p.117) by the rediscovered Mendelian theories of heredity, including the English botanist William Bateson (1861–1926). Bateson, a good friend of de Vries’s, read the work with great interest and began incorporating Mendelian ideas into his own research and lectures.69

Bateson, much like the radioactivists, made frequent use of Nature’s Letters to the Editor. The Letters to the Editor often played host to debates between Bateson and British biometricians, most notably W. F. R. Weldon (1860–1906), who argued that the statistical evidence in favor of Mendel’s theories was inadequate.70 The biometricians preferred Francis Galton’s theory of ancestral heredity, which stated that an individual’s genetic makeup incorporated hereditary material from all of the individual’s ancestors, not just the parents. The biometricians also argued that an individual’s characters (height, hair color, skin color, etc.) were the result of the blending of the characters from his progenitors. They rejected the Mendelian implication that inheritance of a particular character (such as wrinkly or smooth skin on peas, which had been one of Mendel’s test cases) was a yes-or-no, all-or-nothing proposition. In response, Bateson argued that the biometricians did not attribute enough evolutionary significance to “sports” (animals displaying sudden, discontinuous variation from their parents) and that Mendel’s laws might hold the key to a complete understanding of evolution.

Bateson’s conflict with Weldon had started well before Bateson took up the mantle of Mendelism. The two biologists had attended Cambridge University at the same time and were close friends in the 1880s. However, they fell out in the early 1890s when Bateson began arguing more forcefully, both in print and in personal correspondence, for the importance of discontinuous variation. The friendship was finally severed following a debate—partially conducted in Nature—about the ancestry of cineraria, an unusual cultivated plant. At an 1895 meeting of the Royal Society, Bateson criticized W. T. Thiselton-Dyer’s suggestion that the wild Cineraria cruenta might give rise to cultivated cineraria. In early May both men wrote to Nature to tell their version of the debate. Weldon wrote in to Nature in support of Thiselton-Dyer, a move that Bateson took very personally.71

When Bateson began championing Mendelian theory in Britain, he once again found himself in conflict with his old friend. The two debated bitterly in Biometrika (a publication Weldon helped found in 1900) and in Nature until Weldon’s premature death from pneumonia in 1906. After Weldon’s death, his colleague Karl Pearson assumed the leadership of the British biometricians as well as the responsibility of arguing with Bateson.72 The prickly Pearson took Bateson’s criticisms as personally as Weldon had. In (p.118) fact, Pearson’s feelings about Bateson grew so strong that in 1910, when two members of the Biometrika editorial board (the American biologists Raymond Pearl and Charles Davenport) published comments favoring Mendelian theory, Pearson responded by abolishing Biometrika’s editorial board altogether.73 The intensity of the conflict was fueled both by personal pride and the desire for professional survival. Biometry and genetics were new fields attempting to establish a foothold in Great Britain’s limited number of scientific institutions; their supporters may have felt that the success of their field depended on discrediting the competition.74

Nature was one of Bateson’s favorite publication venues. But when we compare Bateson’s use of the Letters to the Editor with Rutherford’s, we see that Bateson did not use the column to announce new results as Rutherford did. Instead, Bateson mainly wrote letters to the editor to criticize anti-Mendelian opponents, a pattern of contribution more consistent with nineteenth-century contributors such as George J. Romanes or E. Ray Lankester. In 1892, for example, Bateson wrote two letters to the editor arguing with a recent book review by Edward B. Poulton.75 Similarly, in 1903 Bateson wrote to Nature with an analysis of Weldon’s latest article in Biometrika. He sharply criticized Weldon’s conclusions and argued that Weldon’s study of the inheritance of eye color and coat color in mice produced results that were perfectly in accord with Mendel’s predictions.76 Weldon wrote back to cite another Biometrika article by a Mr. Darbishire, who had described breeding albino and brown mice and obtaining hybrids with a “lilac” coat. Weldon presented the “lilac” mice as evidence of the blending theory of heredity.77 The two exchanged another pair of letters before ending the correspondence in April.78

The controversy between Bateson and the biometricians has received a great deal of attention from scholars and has tended to overshadow other participants in the debate over Mendelian inheritance in Great Britain. A number of other scientists also contributed to Nature’s Mendelian discussions, including Bateson’s student R. H. Lock, the biologist G. Archdall Reid, a lecturer at London Medical College named George P. Mudge, E. Ray Lankester’s former pupil J. T. Cunningham, and W. T. Thiselton-Dyer. These men engaged in debates as lengthy and as passionate (though not as personally tinged) as those of Bateson, Weldon, and Pearson. In October 1907, for instance, Reid began a ten-week correspondence on Mendelian inheritance with a letter arguing that Mendel’s laws did not apply to parthenogenic reproduction and therefore could not be the key to unlocking the puzzle of heredity.79 Lock, Mudge, and Thiselton-Dyer all joined the discussion in (p.119) Nature about Mendelism, sex, and the evidence for Mendel’s laws. Interestingly, only Reid wrote in opposition to Mendelian doctrine; the other biologists all expressed their belief in the accuracy of Mendel’s laws.80

A quick examination of the parties involved in these discussions reveals something important: despite the wide international reach of genetics, the scientists writing to Nature about Mendelian inheritance were all living and working in the United Kingdom. Geneticists from outside the United Kingdom were not represented in these discussions. Why was genetics so different from radioactivity in its ability to draw international contributors to Nature?

In fact, the gap between the two fields may not be as pronounced as it first appears. If we return our attention to radioactivity, we see that the most frequent international contributors to Nature were researchers who had a personal connection to Rutherford—in particular, scientists such as Hahn who had studied for a time in his laboratory. Scientists who spent their careers in their native countries—for example, Marie Curie or Stefan Meyer—seldom contributed to Nature. In contrast to radioactivity, foreigners rarely came to work in British genetics laboratories in the early twentieth century. At first glance this seems quite odd. Genetics has a long and rich history of international congresses; it was a 1906 congress in London that formally accepted the name “genetics” for the discipline that had grown out of Mendelian theories of heredity. We might expect that a field so quick to embrace international congresses and international communication would be more likely to send scientists abroad to study with foreign colleagues. But in Britain, Germany, France, and the United States, geneticists were struggling for national recognition of their new discipline, which may have dampened the enthusiasm for sending their students and papers abroad.81 Furthermore, because few of them had studied in Britain, foreign geneticists would have had less exposure to Nature’s submissions process than scientists who had watched Rutherford dispatch a new missive to Nature every other month.

Journals, Nationalism, and Internationalism

Many historians have written that the twenty years preceding the outbreak of World War I were an era of increasing international ties between scientific workers. The number of international scientific congresses increased dramatically between 1870 and 1914, fueled in part by a desire to standardize terminology and units and in part by the enormous boom in railway networks across Europe.82 The rhetoric of “scientific internationalism” was also (p.120) growing—more and more scientists were speaking of science as a fundamentally international endeavor, one that transcended political boundaries even when governments were at odds or at war. (As Debra Everett-Lane points out, this “internationalism” was heavily Eurocentric.)83 Furthermore, scholars have observed that many of the new fields that emerged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as radioactivity and genetics, were international sciences from the very beginning, with researchers from multiple countries making significant contributions to these fields almost simultaneously.

With scientific internationalism on the rise, it might be expected that scientific journals would take on a more international character, but in the early twentieth century Nature was far from alone in its national orientation. In fact, many of the most influential scientific journals in Europe were similarly focused on serving a particular national scientific community. One good example is the Annalen der Physik und Chemie, Germany’s most important journal of the physical sciences. The Annalen, founded in 1790, rose to prominence in the early nineteenth century under the leadership of Johann Christian Poggendorff, who assumed the editorship in 1824.84 Fifty years later Poggendorff declared that his Annalen was the “only organ of physics for Germany”—a bold statement, but one few would have challenged.85 The journal’s important place in German physics endured even after Poggendorff’s death in 1877. In 1925 one German scientist commented that the Annalen “unite[s] in itself the entire physical life in Germany.”86

Throughout the nineteenth century, the Annalen regularly published translations of important papers by foreign physicists. But German and Austrian scientists such as Hermann von Helmholtz, Georg Ohm, Gustav Kirchoff, Heinrich Hertz, and Max Planck were responsible for the vast majority of the Annalen’s content, especially toward the end of Poggendorff’s editorial tenure. Poggendorff and his successor Gustav Wiedemann believed that the main purpose of their journal was to publish the latest work by Germanophone physicists in order to strengthen physical research in the German-speaking lands. While the editors and contributors would not have been displeased that foreign scientists read their journal, building an international readership was not their primary goal. The Annalen was meant to serve the physical sciences in Germany first and foremost.

A similar case is that of Le Radium, a Parisian publication devoted to radioactivity research. Le Radium was founded in 1904 under the editorship of Jacques Danne and published by Masson et Compagnie. It was a relatively short monthly magazine (an average issue was about 35 pages long) that (p.121) published both original articles on radioactivity and shorter summaries of articles in other journals. Le Radium published steadily through June 1914, but the outbreak of World War I resulted in a five-year gap in publication. The journal resumed publication of its final volume in May 1919 and ceased to publish after December of that year. Le Radium’s demise was probably linked to the death of its editor, Danne, who died shortly before the journal resumed publication in 1919.87

Like the Annalen, Le Radium regularly published pieces by foreign scientists such as Rutherford, Boltwood, Soddy, and Hahn as well as articles by lesser-known British, German, and American scientists.88 Foreign scientists prepared and submitted some of these articles doubtless with the intent to publicize their work in the French radioactivity community. But Le Radium’s editorial staff translated most of the articles by foreign scientists themselves, and French scientists were responsible for the majority of Le Radium’s original articles.89 Furthermore, Le Radium’s board of directors included only three foreigners: Rutherford, the German physicist Heinrich Rubens, and the Danish physicist Niels Finsen. The other eleven directors were all French (one, Jean Danysz, was Polish-French).90 Even though radioactivity was an international science, Le Radium, like Nature and the Annalen, was aimed at a national readership.

The continuing national focus of prominent journals has important implications for the history of internationalism in early twentieth-century science. Although scientific internationalism was gaining strength in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many historians have observed that internationalism often had to contend with the other major political movement of the late nineteenth century: nationalism.91 While international scientific congresses and correspondence networks bore witness to increasing scientific internationalism, journals continued to reflect national scientific concerns, and a scientist’s choice of where to publish his or her work was often dictated by national background and career ambitions. Rutherford and the Curies are excellent examples of scientists who had a wide network of international colleagues but remained focused on publishing within their own national context. Despite the growing rhetoric of scientific internationalism and the increasing importance of international scientific colleagues, both Rutherford and the Curies placed great emphasis on asserting their scientific talents within their national scientific communities.

It is important to recognize that nationalism and internationalism were not always antagonists. National pride might motivate a country to host an international scientific congress, for example, or prompt scientists in (p.122) a previously isolated nation to make their work available to international colleagues. Even the Nobel Institute, the embodiment of early twentieth-century scientific internationalism, acknowledged and made use of scientific nationalism. Historian Elisabeth Crawford writes that the Nobel Institution was “built not only on the coexistence of nationalism and internationalism but also on the essential tension between the two.” She notes that the scientists who nominated their colleagues for the Nobel Prize were expected to act as representatives of their own nations—and that this appeal to nationalism was not seen as being contrary to the Nobel Institute’s international mission.92 Similarly, while early twentieth-century journals were largely national rather than international in orientation, the publications still contributed to the exchange of information across international borders. A heavily British publication such as Nature could still have international significance, as Rutherford’s correspondence with Boltwood reveals.

The increasingly international makeup of Nature’s radioactivity contributors shows that the journal’s community of contributors and readers was beginning to include scientists outside Britain’s borders in the early twentieth century. The outbreak of the Great War in August 1914, however, proved to be a serious challenge to ideals of scientific internationalism. Despite the claim that scientific brotherhood transcended political conflicts, the war shattered many of the ties between scientists who now found themselves on opposite political sides. As we shall see in the next chapter, there was no question about where Nature’s editors and contributors felt their political—and scientific—loyalties lay.


(1.) On Rutherford’s correspondence leading up to the Brussels conference, see Wilson, Rutherford: Simple Genius, 252–254.

(2.) Ultimately, despite his efforts to cultivate his colleagues, Rutherford’s proposals were not adopted in full. Madame Curie argued that the curie should not be based on such an infinitesimal amount of radium. The congress decided that a curie would be the number of radioactive decays per second in one gram of radium, or 3.7 × 1010 decays per second. One curie is a very large amount of radiation; most scientists dealt with quantities more on the lines of a nanocurie (1 × 10–9 curie). In 1975, the International System of Units (Système international d’unités [SI]) changed the standard unit of radiation from the curie to the becquerel. One becquerel is equal to one decay per second, and one curie is equal to 3.7 × 1010 becquerels.

(3.) For more on networks of communication and research in the field of radioactivity, see Hughes, “The Radioactivists.”

(4.) There are a few examples of non-British scientists writing pieces specifically for Nature as opposed to pieces from foreign journals translated by Nature staff or contributors. Many of them were cowritten with or communicated by a British contributor. See H. Helmholtz, “Rayleigh’s ‘Theory of Sound,’” Nature 17 (24 January 1878): 237–239; Hermann L. F. Helmholtz, “Mathematical and Physical Papers,” Nature 32 (14 May 1885): 25–28;Wilhelm Ostwald, “Scientific Education in Germany and England,” Nature 54 (27 August 1896): 405–406; John Tyndall and Louis Pasteur, “Prof. Tyndall on Germs,” Nature 13 (17 February 1876): 305–306.

(8.) Ernest Rutherford and Frederick Soddy, “Radioactive Change,” Philosophical Magazine 5 (1903): 576–591. (p.262)

(9.) On Mendeleev’s reaction to the “alchemy” of atomic transmutation, see Gordin, Well-Ordered Thing, chap. 8.

(10.) See, e.g., J. J. Thomson, “Radium,” Nature 67 (30 April 1903): 601–602.

(11.) “Notes,” Nature 53 (16 January 1896): 253.

(12.) W. C. Röntgen, “On a New Kind of Rays,” trans. Arthur Stanton, Nature 53 (23 January 1896): 274–276.

(13.) A. A. C. Swinton, “Professor Röntgen’s Discovery,” Nature 53 (23 January 1896): 276–277.

(14.) For examples of Chemical News articles on Röntgen rays, see “Professor Röntgen’s New Discovery,” Chemical News 73 (31 January 1896): 49; W. Ackroyd, “Action of the Metals and Their Salts on the Ordinary and on the Röntgen Rays,” Chemical News 74 (20 November 1896): 257; Jean Perrin, “Certain Properties of Röntgen’s Rays,” Chemical News 73 (7 February 1896): 61; John Waddell, “The Permeability of Various Elements to the Röntgen Rays,” Chemical News 74 (18 December 1896): 298–299.

(15.) On the nature of the rays, see, e.g., Oliver Lodge, “On the Present Hypotheses Concerning the Nature of Röntgen’s Rays,” Electrician 36 (7 February 1896): 471–473. For an original research article, see, e.g., John Burke, “Some Experiments with Röntgen Rays,” Electrician 37 (17 July 1896): 373–375.

(16.) E.g., Henry A. Rowland, N. R. Charmichael, and L. J. Briggs, “Notes of Observations on the Röntgen Rays,” Philosophical Magazine, 5th ser., 41 (April 1896): 381–382; Franz Streinitz, “On an Electrochemical Action of the Röntgen Rays on Silver Bromide,” Philosophical Magazine, 5th ser., 41 (May 1896): 462–463; R. W. Wood, “Note on ‘Focus Tubes’ for Producing X-rays,” Philosophical Magazine, 5th ser., 41 (April 1896): 382–383.

(17.) For mentions of Becquerel’s work, see, e.g., “Societies and Academies,” Nature 53 (5 March 1896): 430–432; “Recent Work with Röntgen Rays,” Nature 53 (2 April 1896): 522–524; “The Röntgen Rays,” Nature 54 (30 July 1896): 302–306. For Thomson’s article, see J. J. Thomson, “The Röntgen Rays,” Nature 53 (23 April 1896): 581–583.

(18.) “Notes: Röntgeniana,” Electrician 38 (4 December 1896): 173–174.

(19.) Henri Becquerel, “On the Invisible Radiations Emitted by the Salts of Uranium,” Chemical News 73 (10 April 1896): 167–168; “On the Different Properties of the Invisible Radiations Emitted by Uranium Salts and the Radiation of the Antikathodic Wall of a Crookes Tube,” Chemical News 73 (24 April 1896): 189–190; “Emission of New Radiations by Metallic Uranium,” Chemical News 73 (26 June 1896): 295.

(22.) On radioactivity and radium in the popular press, see Badash, Radioactivity in America, 19. See also Lavine, “Cultural History of Radiation,” 29–90.

(23.) For mentions of the Curies and their work on radioactivity in Nature before 1900, see, e.g., “Societies and Academies,” Nature 57 (21 April 1898): 599–600; “The British Association,” Nature 58 (8 September 1898): 436–460; “Notes,” Nature 60 (25 May 1899): 84–88; “Societies and Academies,” Nature 60 (26 October 1899): 635–636.

(24.) For mentions of Marie Curie’s work on the magnetic properties of steel, see, e.g., “Notes,” Nature 51 (21 February 1895): 392–395; “Notes,” Nature 55 (17 December 1896): 159–162; “Societies and Academies,” Nature 56 (24 June 1897): 189–192; David K. Morris, “The Magnetic Properties and Electrical Resistance of Iron at High Temperatures,” Nature 57 (6 January 1898): 232–234; W. C. Roberts-Austen, “Micrographic Analysis,” Nature 52 (15 August 1895): 367–369.

(25.) Pierre Curie and Marie Curie, “Chemical Effects Produced by Becquerel’s Rays,” Philosophical Magazine, 5th ser., 49 (February 1900): 242–244.

(26.) P. Curie and Mdme. P. Curie, “Radio-Activity Due to Becquerel Rays,” Chemical News 80 (8 December 1899): 269; Mdme. Sklowdowska Curie, “Radio-Active Substances,” Chemical News 88 (1903): 85–86, 97–99, 134–135, 145–147, 159–160, 169–171, 175–177, 187–188, 199–201, 211–212, 223–224, 235–236, 247–249, 259–261, 271–272. (p.263)

(27.) “Notes,” Electrician 48 (14 March 1902): 803.

(28.) On Marie Curie’s publishing patterns after Pierre’s death, see Davis, “Research School of Marie Curie.”

(30.) On Rutherford’s New Zealand background, see Badash, “Influence of New Zealand.”

(32.) Ernest Rutherford to Mary Newton, 22 April 1898, as printed in Eve, Rutherford, 50.

(34.) M. et Mme. P. Curie, “Sur la radioactivité provoquée par les rayons de Becquerel,” Comptes Rendus 129 (20 November 1899): 714–716.

(35.) Ernest Rutherford, “On Radioactivity Produced in Substances by the Action of Thorium Compounds,” Philosophical Magazine, 5th ser., 49 (February 1900): 161–192.

(38.) On Rutherford’s favored publications, see Badash, “Origins of Big Science,” 32–33.

(39.) E.g., E. Rutherford, “Emanations from Radio-Active Substances,” Nature 64 (13 June 1901): 157–158; “The Amount of Emanation and Helium from Radium,” Nature 68 (20 August 1903): 366–367; “Slow Transformation Products of Radium,” Nature 71 (9 February 1905): 341–342; “Production of Radium from Actinium,” Nature 75 (17 January 1907): 270–271.

(40.) E. Rutherford and F. Soddy, “Radio-Activity of Thorium Compounds,” Chemical News 85 (1902): 261, 271–272, 282–285, 293–295, 304–308; 86 (1902): 97–101, 132–135, 169–170. Rutherford did coauthor a Chemical News article with Boltwood in 1905 announcing Boltwood’s forthcoming paper in the American Journal of Science: E. Rutherford and B. B. Boltwood, “Relative Proportion of Radium and Uranium in Radio-Active Minerals,” Chemical News 92 (28 July 1905): 38–39.

(41.) In 1897, J. J. Thomson sent the Electrician a shorter version of his protégé’s forthcoming paper in the Philosophical Magazine. E. Rutherford, “On the Electrification of Gases Exposed to Röntgen Rays, and the Absorption of Röntgen Radiation by Gases and Vapours,” Electrician 38 (23 April 1897): 865–868.

(43.) Ernest Rutherford to J. J. Thomson, 26 March 1901, printed in Eve, Rutherford, 77.

(44.) Ernest Rutherford to Martha Thompson Rutherford, 17 December 1906, printed in Eve, Rutherford, 148.

(45.) See William Dawson to Norman Lockyer, 10 May 1898, NLP, MSS 110; Ernest Rutherford to J. Norman Lockyer, 31 October 1906, NLP, MSS 110.

(48.) E.g., M. L. Oliphant, P. Harteck, and E. Rutherford, “Transmutation Effects Observed with Heavy Hydrogen,” Nature 133 (17 March 1934): 413; E. Rutherford, “The Boiling Point of the Radium Emanation,” Nature 79 (18 February 1909): 457–458; E. Rutherford and J. Chadwick, “The Bombardment of Elements by α‎-Particles,” Nature 113 (29 March 1924): 457.

(49.) For the full correspondence, see Badash, Rutherford and Boltwood.

(50.) On Boltwood and American radioactivity research more generally, see Badash, Radioactivity in America.

(51.) Bertram Boltwood to Ernest Rutherford, 11 April 1905, printed in Badash, Rutherford and Boltwood, 60. The Nature article to which Boltwood refers is “Societies and Academies,” Nature 71 (13 April 1905): 574, which includes an abstract of Otto Hahn’s preliminary communication to the Royal Society, “A New Radio-Active Element, Which Evolves Thorium Emanation.” (p.264)

(52.) Bertram Boltwood to Ernest Rutherford, 7 November 1906, printed in Badash, Rutherford and Boltwood, 142–143. The communications Boltwood mentions in his letter were both printed; see Bertram Boltwood, “The Production of Radium from Actinium,” Nature 75 (15 November 1906): 54; “Note on the Production of Radium by Actinium,” American Journal of Science 22 (December 1906): 537–538.

(53.) Ernest Rutherford to Bertram Boltwood, 20 June 1904, printed in Badash, Rutherford and Boltwood, 32. The Nature letter Rutherford mentions is Frederick Soddy, “The Life-History of Radium,” Nature 70 (12 May 1904): 30.

(54.) Ernest Rutherford to Bertram Boltwood, 14 October 1906, as printed in Badash, Rutherford and Boltwood, 139. For the Nature letter, see Ernest Rutherford, “Absorption of the Radio-Active Emanations by Charcoal,” Nature 74 (25 October 1906): 634.

(55.) For post-1908 references to Nature in the Boltwood-Rutherford correspondence, see Badash, Rutherford and Boltwood, 182, 212–213, 224, 227–228, 257, 264–265, 282, 311–312, 343, 347–348.

(56.) A radioactive element, such as thorium, will slowly transmute into other elements as it loses alpha particles. Rutherford and Boltwood were trying to determine which elements scientists should expect to encounter when a radioactive element decayed and in which sequence those new elements would appear during the decay process.

(57.) Ernest Rutherford to Bertram Boltwood, 28 July 1907, as printed in Badash, Rutherford and Boltwood, 159–160. For the exchange in Nature between Boltwood and Soddy, see Frederick Soddy, “The Origin of Radium,” Nature 76 (13 June 1907): 150; Bertram Boltwood, “The Origin of Radium,” Nature 76 (25 July 1907): 293.

(58.) Bertram Boltwood to Ernest Rutherford, 2 August 1907, as printed in Badash, Rutherford and Boltwood, 162–164.

(59.) Otto Hahn, “A New Product of Actinium,” Nature 73 (12 April 1906): 559–560; “The Origin of Radium,” Nature 77 (14 November 1907): 30–31; Otto Hahn and Otto von Baeyer, “Magnetic Deflection of β‎ Rays,” Nature 83 (26 May 1910): 369.

(61.) M. Berthelot to Norman Lockyer, 13 October 1879, NLP, MSS 110. Notably, Berthelot was writing to Lockyer to ask for aid in helping his recent paper reach the Royal Society, not Nature.

(62.) Norman Lockyer, “The Advancement of Natural Knowledge,” Nature 65 (30 January 1902): 289–291; William Abney, “Science and the State,” Nature 71 (24 November 1904): 90–91.

(63.) Editor, “The Death of the Queen,” Nature 63 (24 January 1901): 293; “The Death of the King,” Nature 83 (12 May 1910): 301.

(64.) E.g., see “Professor Ostwald on English and German Science,” Nature 54 (27 August 1896): 385–386; Henry Dyer, “Education and National Efficiency in Japan,” Nature 71 (15 December 1904): 150–151; H. R. Reichel, “Some Characteristics of American Universities,” Nature 73 (9 November 1905): 44–46; W. A. C., “Some German Public Laboratories,” Nature 70 (26 May 1904): 83.

(65.) When Rutherford moved to Manchester in 1908, Eve took over as the head of the Macdonald Physics Laboratory.

(66.) A. S. Eve, “Some Scientific Centres. VIII. The Macdonald Physics Building, McGill University, Montreal,” Nature 74 (19 July 1906): 272.

(67.) Otto Hahn, quoted in Eve, Rutherford, 143.

(68.) Carl Correns, “G. Mendel’s Regel über das Verhalten der Nachkommenschaft der Rassenbastarde,” Berichte der deutschen botanischen Gesellschaft 18 (1900): 158–168; Hugo de Vries, “Das Spaltungsgesetz der Bastarde,” Berichte der deutschen botanischen Gesellschaft 18 (1900): 83–90; Eric von Tschermak, “Über künstliche Kreuzung bei Pisum sativum,” Berichte der deutschen botanischen Gesellschaft 18 (1900): 232–239. For Mendel’s original papers, see Mendel, Experiments in Plant Hybridisation.

(71.) See W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, “Origin of the Cultivated Cineraria,” Nature 52 (2 May 1895): 3–4; W. Bateson, “The Origin of the Cultivated Cineraria,” Nature 52 (9 May 1895): 29; W. F. R. Weldon, “The Origin of the Cultivated Cineraria,” Nature 52 (16 May 1895): 54.

(74.) Ibid. Historian Jan Sapp has similarly described the rise of “genetics,” based on the Mendelian theory of heredity, as the outcome of “a struggle for power and authority” between competing theories of heredity. See Sapp, “Struggle for Authority.”

(75.) W. Bateson, “The Alleged ‘Aggressive Mimicry’ of Vollucellae,” Nature 46 (20 October 1892): 585; “The Alleged ‘Aggressive Mimicry’ of Vollucellae,” Nature 47 (24 November 1892): 77–78. For the original review and Poulton’s response, see Edward B. Poulton, “Natural Selection and Alternative Hypotheses,” Nature 46 (6 October 1892): 533–537; Poulton, “The Vollucellae as Examples of Aggressive Mimicry,” Nature 47 (10 November 1892): 28–30; “The Vollucellae as Alleged Examples of Variation ‘Almost Unique among Animals,’” Nature 47 (8 December 1892): 126–127.

(76.) W. Bateson, “Mendel’s Principles of Heredity in Mice,” Nature 67 (19 March 1903): 462–463.

(77.) W. F. R. Weldon, “Mendel’s Principles of Heredity in Mice,” Nature 67 (2 April 1903): 512.

(78.) W. Bateson, “Mendel’s Principles of Heredity in Mice,” Nature 67 (23 April 1903): 585–586; W. F. R. Weldon, “Mendel’s Principles of Heredity in Mice,” Nature 67 (30 April 1903): 610.

(79.) G. Archdall Reid, “The Interpretation of Mendelian Phenomena,” Nature 76 (3 October 1907): 566.

(80.) Articles in this discussion include R. H. Lock, “The Interpretation of Mendelian Phenomena,” Nature 76 (17 October 1907): 616; G. Archdall Reid, “The Interpretation of Mendelian Phenomena,” Nature 76 (31 October 1907): 662–663; J. T. Cunningham, “The Interpretation of Mendelian Phenomena,” Nature 77 (21 November 1907): 54; W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, “Specific Stability and Mutation,” Nature 77 (28 November 1907): 77–79.

(81.) There are many excellent scholarly works on genetics in different national contexts in the early twentieth century, e.g., Adams, Wellborn Science; Harwood, Styles of Scientific Thought; Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics.

(85.) Johann Christian Poggendorff, quoted in ibid., 1:38.

(86.) Karl Scheel, quoted in ibid., 1:34.

(87.) See “Jacques Danne (1882–1919),” Le Radium 11 (May 1919): 193–194.

(88.) Examples of articles by foreign physicists in Le Radium include Bertram Boltwood, “Sur les quantités relatives de radium et d’uranium contenus dans quelques minéraux,” Le Radium 1 (15 August 1904): 45–48; E. Rutherford and O. Hahn, “Masse et vitesse des particules α‎ émises par le radium et l’actinium,” Le Radium 3 (November 1906): 321–326; F. Soddy, “La table périodique des elements,” Le Radium 11 (January 1914): 6–8.

(89.) These articles contain a brief postscript note indicating the name of the person who translated it into French. Frequent translators include Léon Bloch, A. Laborde, P. Razet, and Gaston Danne (Jacques Danne’s younger brother).

(90.) The members of Le Radium’s Comité de Direction were Jacques-Arsène d’Arsonval, Henri Becquerel, Antoine Béclère, René Blondlot, Charles Bouchard, Pierre Curie, Jean Danysz, Andre (p.266) Debierne, Charles Féry, Niels Finsen, Charles Edouard Guillaume, Paul Marie Oudin, Heinrich Rubens, and Ernest Rutherford. Notably, Marie Curie’s name was not on this list, even after Pierre’s death in 1906.