Nature archive


Since launch in November 1869, Nature has published many of the most significant and influential papers in modern science. From research scientists to journalists, the Nature archive provides users with an authoritative narrative through scientific history.

The archives form an invaluable part of any scientific and historical research. They are mostly used for background information, methods and protocols, writing grant applications, essays and research papers as well as teaching tools for all academic levels, a reference resource for history of science and science in society courses.

  • Unique and revolutionary content
  • Collections can be bought separately or together
  • Highly relevant - content cited over 43,000 times in 2011
  • Inter-disciplinary: of interest to both scientists and historians
  • Accessible via an institutional licence on the platform

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Nov. 1869 – Dec. 1949

​​​​​​​Volumes 1-164: 4183 issues

First collection, a rich variety of material

The first collection of the Nature archive offers a rich variety of material; from original research to book reviews, scientific news, and reports of scientific society meetings. During this period the pages of Nature were home to many of the most significant scientific advances, such as the invention of the typewriter and telegraphs, the science behind and debate around nuclear weapons, the discovery of the neutron, and, in what may have been Nature’s very first special issue, a lively discussion on Einstein’s theory of relativity. 

  • 1880: To use of fingerprints as a way to identify criminals
  • 1896: First x-rays observed
  • 1932: Nuclear fission revealed

Jan. 1950 – Dec. 1986

Volumes 165-324: 1915 issues

Rapid increase in scientific discovery

The post-war years saw a rapid increase in scientific discovery, particularly in the biological sciences. The structure of DNA was revealed to the world, and by the end of 1986 the first description of using fluorescence technology to automate DNA sequencing was published, eventually resulting in the human genome sequence. Startling confirmations in the physical sciences, including evidence of continental drift and the detection of a hole in the ozone layer, now fuel much of today’s climate change research - and key papers published in this collection continue to shape economic and political policies. 

  • 1953: Watson and Crick decipher the structure of DNA
  • 1983: AIDS virus identified
  • 1985: Discovery of a hole in the ozone layer

Jan. 1987 – Dec. 1996

Volumes 325-384: 512 issues

Established scientific findings

The period covered by the third archive collection includes established scientific findings, such as remarkable advances in drug development and the search for other earth-like planets. In 1995 Mayor and Queloz of the Geneva Observatory, Switzerland, found ‘51 Pegasi b’, a large, Jupiter-sized planet orbiting a Sun-like star. Nearly two hundred extrasolar planets have since been found using the same technique. 

  • 1992: 300,000 year old Neanderthal skull remains found
  • 1994: Powerful anti-cancer compound Taxol is synthesized for the first time
  • 1995: First discovery of a planet outside our solar system

Jan. 1997 – Dec. 2006

Volumes 385-445: 512 issues

Most groundbreaking research and discoveries

The final Nature archive collection is home to some of the most groundbreaking research and discoveries of the previous decade, including the first instance of successful cloning of a mammal, and the development of electrophoretic ink, used today in ebook readers. Huge steps forward in genetics were also made; the Human Genome Project mapped every part of the human DNA and a large portion of the results were published in Nature. The data from this project will allow researchers to continue to develop new and life saving technologies. 

  • 1997: Cloning and birth of Dolly the sheep revealed
  • 2001: The human genome is mapped
  • 2006: Decoding the Antikythera mechanism

Nature PastCast

The Nature PastCast is a podcast series telling the stories behind some of the biggest papers in Nature's archive. Each month for a year, the PastCast explored Nature's back catalogue, setting in context key moments in the history of science – and rooting out some of the quirkier reports from the journal – with the help of scientists and historians.

Click on the links to access each episode, and please feel free share this great feature with your researchers:

January 1896: On a new type of ray

December 1920: The Quantum Theory

November 1869: Nature is born

October 1993: Could there be life on other planets?

September 1963: Plate Tectonics

August 1975: Monoclonal antibodies

July 1942: WW2 Radar Design

June 1876: The arrival of the first Gorilla in Europe

May 1985: The discovery of a hole in the ozone layer

April 1953: The structure of DNA

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