Physical Review Letters Turns Golden

All this year our beloved journal of letters PRL has been celebrating its 50th anniversary. In July 1958 Physical Review Editor Samuel Goudschmidt began this new journal as a tentative experiment, taking what would have been brief letters to the Editor and publishing them separately in their own volumes in order to make important results available quickly. It became an enormously successful journal in its own right, and is now emulated by scores of similar letters journals worldwide. Thus it is indeed fitting to look back and review the course of its publishing history.

Since January 2008 PRL has been republishing important editorials and letters on a special golden-anniversary web site,

Compiled by former APS Editor-in-Chief Martin Blume (who recently ran for Forum Vice Chair), this site features a few milestone letters from each year, including short essays on their contents and significance. There is also a web timeline highlighting important events in the history of the Physical Review journals.

In recognition of this anniversary, the Forum sponsored special invited sessions at the March and April APS meetings devoted to PRL and its history. The March meeting featured talks by Marvin Cohen, Saad Hebboul, Jack Sandweiss, Charles Slichter, and Eugene Stanley (see the article by George Zimmerman). At the April meeting, Associate Editor Robert Garisto spoke about “Half a Century of PRL,” while Michael Peskin and Michael Turner addressed the impact the journal has had on particle physics and cosmology.

One brief but touching event occurred at the April meeting, where a large group of referees were recognized for their outstanding service to the journal. Without their dedicated, self-effacing efforts, PRL would not be the preeminent journal of physics it has indeed become.