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APS Recognizes Cornell as Birthplace of the Physical Review

APS Recognizes Cornell as Birthplace of the Physical Review
Cornell plaque ceremony
 Robert Barker/Cornell University On March 3rd, Cornell President David Skorton signs the APS Register of Historic Sites, while Historic Sites Committee Chair John Rigden (left) and APS Editor-in-Chief Gene Sprouse (right) look on.

America’s first physics-only scientific journal, the Physical Review, saw the light of day at Cornell University in 1893. The guiding spirit behind its birth was a member of the Cornell faculty, Edward L. Nichols, who edited it with the help of two of his colleagues, Ernest Merritt and Frederick Bedell. The journal stayed at Cornell until 1913 when it was taken over by the American Physical Society. The first issue, dated July-August 1893, listed Nichols and Merritt as editors. Bedell joined them soon thereafter. It defined itself as “A journal of experimental and theoretical physics.” The first issue was 80 pages long. Volume 1 contained a mere 20 articles, spread over only 480 pages.

Nowadays, of course, Phys Rev has fissioned into five sections, A through E, each covering a broad range of physics, and has spawned two other major publications, Physical Review Letters and Reviews of Modern Physics, as well as two online-only journals. Altogether, these journals now publish upwards of 130,000 pages annually.

On March 3rd, as part of its historic sites initiative, APS presented a plaque to Cornell University to honor the founding of the Physical Review.

Gray arrow  Founding of Physical Review
Gray arrow  Historic Sites Initiative
Gray arrow  Physical Review

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Contributing Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff