The Royal Society has been publishing peer-reviewed scientific research since 1665. Now, they’ve thrown open the doors to their historical archive. Everything more than 70 years old is freely available.

It’s science history gold. As the Royal Society’s announcement notes, you can now get a copy of the following articles:

Franklin, B. “A Letter of Benjamin Franklin, Esq; to Mr. Peter Collinson, F.R.S. concerning an electrical Kite.” Philosophical Transactions 47, 566-567, 1751-1752. Free full text.

Newton, I. “A Letter of Mr. Isaac Newton, Professor of the Mathematicks in the University of Cambridge, Containing His New Theory about Light and Colors: Sent by the Author to the Publisher from Cambridge, Febr. 6 1671/72; In Order to be Communicated to the R. Society.” Philosophical Transactions 6, 3075-3087, 1671. Free full text.

The latter has a wonderful abstract (given in the issue’s table of contents), which I here reproduce:

A Letter of Mr. Iſaac Newton, Mathematick Profeſſor in the Univerſity of Cambridge; containing his New Theory about Light and Colors: Where Light is declared to be not Similar or Homogeneal, but conſiſting of difform rays, ſome of which are more refrangible than others: And Colors are affirm’d to be not Qualifications of Light, deriv’d from Refractions of natural Bodies, (as ’tis generally believed;) but Original and Connate properties, which in divers rays are divers: Where ſeveral Obſervations and Experiments are alledged to prove the ſaid Theory.

I think all abstracts should be written like this, particularly including the long esses. (I can’t help mentally pronouncing them as f’s, and then the whole thing takes on a lovely Mel Brooks sort of humor.) It would make literature search so much more fun.

(However, I’m glad that my papers need not include the sentence “Amidſt theſe thoughts I was forced from Cambridge by the intervening Plague…” Streptomycin is a wonderful thing.)