PubMed Central is to make over three million pages of historical medical journals available for free online, including significant milestones such as a description of the first appendectomy in 1888 and Sir Richard Doll’s groundbreaking 1954 study linking smoking to lung cancer.

A total of seventeen publications, including the British Medical Journal and the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, will have their archives made available online for no charge for subscribers. New articles from the publications will be made available online after an embargo time of up to one year for research papers, or depending on the individual journal.

The digitisation is expected to be fully complete by Spring 2007, with publications such as the current Annals of Surgery having their archives from 1885 available. Pages are scanned and put online in PDF format, and references and citations have been indexed for each paper.

Papers that will be made freely available online include Sir Alexander Fleming’s description of the use of penicillin as an antibacterial agent, published in 1929 in the then British Journal of Experimental Pathology.

One paper that has already been digitised and is available for free download is Kennth Burton’s seminal paper on assessing DNA concentration, ‘A study of the conditions and mechanism of the diphenylamine reaction for the colorimetric estimation of deoxyribonucleic acid’.

Dr Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, which partially funds the service, said: "This growing collection will be of lasting benefit to researchers, practitioners and medical historians worldwide. It will provide access to important scientific literature from the past, free of charge, to anyone in the world with internet access."

Dr Donald A B Lindberg, director of the National Library of Medicine, which runs PubMed Central, said that making historical journals available online increases access and readership: "Our students show that researchers and authors whose articles appear in PubMed Central are read and cited hundred of times more than they were in their original print format."

The project is one of six digitisation projects managed by the Joint Information Systems Committee with funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, worth £10m.

A full list of the participating journals is available here.


PubMed Central