Five centuries of scientific breakthroughs unveiled

A early blood transfusion from lamb to man

The nine-year-old Mozart was not, as suspected, a midget adult. This and many other fascinating revelations are uncovered in a collection of historic scientific documents unveiled by the Royal Society this week.

The society, formed in London in 1660, began publishing a journal titled Philosophical Transactions five years later – a journal which remains in print today. It has now republished 60 of the most notable articles in an interactive timeline which is probably the closest thing to an accessible history of scientific discovery as you’ll find.

The first article, from 1666, is an account of the first ever blood transfusion (from one dog to another), while the most recent is a 2005 look at ideas to combat global warming such as putting a trillion sunshades into space to filter the sun’s rays.

Among the most historically notable articles are Isaac Newton’s explanation of how “white” light is a mixture of other colors, Benjamin Franklin’s experiments with attracting lightning by flying a kite, the invention of the first electric battery, and the proof that fingerprints are unique.

Other lesser known articles cover a boy who was born blind but had his sight “restored” (which showed that depth perception is a learned skill), a first-hand study showing that despite his natural talents, Mozart was as easily distracted as any other child, and a look at continental drift (the summary for which notes that continents are moving apart faster than the human fingernail grows.)

Each article is printed in its entirety along with a brief summary, accompanying images and links to further information.

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