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June 23/30, 2004


JAMA. 2004;291(24):3014-3015. doi:10.1001/jama.291.24.3014

Nature! We are surrounded and embraced by her: powerless to separate ourselves from her, and powerless to penetrate beyond her.

Without asking, or warning, she snatches up into her circling dance, and whirls us on until we are tired, and drop from her arms. . . .

Darwin judged these somewhat purple and pantheistic Goethe aphorisms opening the first number of Nature on 4 November 1869 "as if written by the maddest English scholar," but the man responsible for presenting them, T. H. Huxley, was realizing a lifelong dream. Nature would transcend the specialisms of science, bringing to the Victorian public a new spirit of freedom of inquiry that Huxley and his fellow X-Club scientists would wield as a sword against the powers of received tradition and unconsidered belief. Despite piracy in America and competition from an Oxford-based monthly, the aloof Academy, Nature was in a winning and accessible format and ultimately became the leading scientific weekly in the world.

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