Our present habits in scientific publication are comparatively recent and have sprung from the interaction of many different factors that have operated differently in different countries. At first a book was the principal medium, but it was backed up by copious letter writing. Letter writing remained necessary in any field that was moving rapidly but, as the number of scientists increased, it became unwieldy and was replaced by a set of privately owned journals that supplemented and copied to some extent the already well‐established Proceedings of the learned societies. By 1800 many journals were being published and many more appeared during the next fifty years. The papers seem as a rule long‐winded by modern standards, but this is always necessary when a subject is so young that there is still legitimate uncertainty about the significant facts in a set of observations. As each science develops there develops with it a more or less standardized type of paper, and this now represents an uneasy compromise between an attempt to give so much information that anyone repeating the work will never be in doubt whether he is observing the phenomenon described or a new one, and the terseness that appeals to a worker in a neighbouring field who wants the conclusions with just enough experimental detail to gauge the reliability of the author. The essential incompatibility of these two aims is probably more apparent in biochemistry and the biological sciences than it is in pure chemistry and physics, but to some extent it pervades the whole of science.
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