Ancestry.com Meets Technical Publishing

scientific journal 011214 ful 450Let’s face it. Who wouldn’t get a rush to discover through Ancestry.com, or your goofy cousin who has spent the last 20 years researching how your family got to the U.S. and who all the generations of your ancestors are, that you are descended, however remotely, from some president or royal family or famous artist? That’s rather the way I felt this morning when over tea and toast (I am in the U.K. after all), I found this announcement. It announces an exhibition celebrating the 350th anniversary of the first publication of the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions, billed as the world’s oldest surviving scientific journal.

It’s a long and circuitous route from the Philosophical Transactions, billed on the cover of the first 1665 edition as “Giving Some Accompt [sic] of the Present Undertakings, Studies, and Labours of the INGENIOUS in Many Considerable Parts of the World” to Control and Control Design, but the DNA is there.

CT/CD and their Internet iterations are 8th cousins, once removed, at best, but we are related. Edmund Halley has never been one of our editors. We did not publish James Clerk Maxwell’s “A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field.” Yes, that Maxwell. Those equations. Charles Darwin didn't fact-check for us. But we have absorbed our ancestor’s thinking and motivation: to provide a forum for the best “scientific gentlemen” and “natural philosophers” in our field--automation--to exchange ideas with one another and with a larger public. The Shinskeys, McMillans, Liptáks and our other subject matter experts are not a bad group of local “natural philosophers” to exchange ideas with.

And it is a rush to realize that you’re related, however remotely, to a royal family.