Philosophical Magazin

The Philosophical Magazine is arguably the world’s oldest commercially published scientific journal. Initiated by Richard Taylor in 1798 and published continuously by Taylor & Francis ever since, it was the journal of choice for such luminaries as Faraday, Joule, Maxwell, J.J. Thomson, Rayleigh and Rutherford. Indeed, the development of science over more than 200 years can be comprehensively traced in its pages.

Early history

The name of the journal dates from a period when ‘natural philosophy’ embraced all aspects of science: physics, chemistry, astronomy, medicine, botany, biology and geology, in addition to natural phenomena of many kinds, for instance earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, lightning strikes and aurora. The very first paper published in the journal carried the title ‘Account of Mr Cartright’s Patent Steam Engine’. Other articles in the first volume include ‘Methods of discovering whether Wine has been adulterated with any Metals prejudicial to Health’ and ‘Description of the Apparatus used by Lavoisier to produce Water from its component Parts, Oxygen and Hydrogen’.

19th Century

Early in the nineteenth century, classic papers by Humphry Davy, Michael Faraday and James Prescott Joule enlivened the journal’s pages, and in the 1860s, James Clerk Maxwell contributed several long articles, culminating in a paper containing the deduction that light is an electromagnetic wave or, as he put it himself, ‘We can scarcely avoid the inference that light consists in transverse undulations of the same medium which is the cause of electric and magnetic phenomena’. The famous experimental paper of Albert A. Michelson and Edward Morley was published in 1887 and this was followed ten years later by J.J. Thomson’s article ‘Cathode Rays’ – essentially the discovery of the electron.

In 1814, the Philosophical Magazine merged with the Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts, otherwise known as Nicholson's Journal, to form The Philosophical Magazine and Journal. Further mergers with the Annals of Philosophy and The Edinburgh Journal of Science led to the retitling of the journal in 1840, to "The London, Edinburgh and Dublin Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science"! In 1949, the title reverted to The Philosophical Magazine, for ease of reference.

20th Century

In the early part of the 20th century, Ernest Rutherford was a frequent contributor. He once told a friend to ‘watch out for the next issue of Philosophical Magazine; it is highly radioactive!’ Aside from his work on understanding radioactivity, Rutherford proposed the experiments of Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden that verified his nuclear model of the atom and led to Niels Bohr’s famous paper on planetary electrons, which was published in the journal in 1913. Another classic contribution from Rutherford was entitled ‘Collision of α Particles with Light Atoms. IV. An Anomalous Effect in Nitrogen’ – an article describing no less than the first artificial transmutation of an element.

In 1978 the journal was divided into two independent parts, Philosophical Magazine A and Philosophical Magazine B. Part A published papers on structure, defects and mechanical properties while Part B focussed on statistical mechanics, electronic, optical and magnetic properties.

The Journal today

Since the middle of the 20th Century, “Phil Mag”, as the journal is affectionately known, has focussed on condensed matter physics and published significant papers on dislocations, mechanical properties of solids, amorphous semiconductors and glasses. As subject area evolved and it became more difficult to classify research into distinct areas, it was no longer considered necessary to publish the journal in two parts, so in 2003 parts A and B were re-merged. In its current form, 36 issues of Philosophical Magazine are published each year, supplemented by 12 issues of Philosophical Magazine Letters.


Philosophical Magazine has a tradition of appointing distinguished and world-renowned Editors with eminent scientists such as John Tyndall, J.J. Thomson, Sir Nevill Mott and William Lawrence Bragg previously occupying this role. The journal is currently edited by Lindsay Greer of the University of Cambridge and Peter Riseborough of Temple University, Philadelphia.

Philosophical Magazine Letters

In 1987, the sister journal Philosophical Magazine Letters was launched with the aim of rapidly publishing short communications on all aspects of condensed matter physics. Phil Mag Letters is edited by E.A. Davis, who is also General and Co-ordinating Editor for both parts of the journal.


* Philosophical Magazine

* Philosophical Magazine Letters

Retrieved from ""
All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License