Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

From the 1823 Lancet

The editor's Preface to the 1823 inaugural issue of The Lancet uses arguments with nice parallels to some present-day arguments for open access. Mike Eisen dug it up and scanned it; Helen Doyle sent it around; I keyed it. In this excerpt, the editor has already described the kinds of valuable information the journal will publish, including the "Metropolitan Hospital Lectures":
The great advantages derivable from information of this description, will, we hope, be sufficiently obvious to every one in the least degree conversant with medical knowledge; any arguments, therefore, to prove these are unnecessary, and we content ourselves by merely showing in what direction their utility will be most active: To the Medical and Surgical Practitioners of this city, whose avocations prevent their personal attendance at the hospitals --To Country Practitioners, whose remoteness from the head quarters, as it were, of scientific knowledge, leaves them almost without the means of ascertaining its progress --To the numerous classes of Students, whether here or in distant universities --To Colonial Practitioners --And, finally, to every individual in these realms....In this attempt, we are well aware that we shall be assailed by much interested opposition. But, notwithstanding this, we will fearlessly discharge our duty.

Update. Also see this background by Richard Horton, current editor of The Lancet. "[M]edicine in 1823 was a little different (but not very much) than now because the famous and powerful surgeons and physicians of the time charged their students to come and listen to lectures. And they charged phenomenal amounts. Well, Thomas Wakley, the first editor, was not having any of this! Thomas Wakley was the Harold Varmus of his time. And so he started The Lancet. He did have a user charge though. Sixpence. And here you could get all the lectures that these physicians and surgeons were delivering at such high cost, almost for free. Medicine did not break down I note that historical lesson thanks to The Lancet." (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.)