"Trailblazing" website reveals 350 years of science

Mon Nov 30, 2009 8:52am EST
 
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A gruesome account of a 1666 blood transfusion and amusing notes about how an 8-year-old Mozart responded to tests of his genius were published on Monday as part of an online history of scientific endeavor.

The "Trailblazing" website was created by Britain's influential science academy the Royal Society, and includes handwritten papers on some of the most important scientific discoveries of the past three and a half centuries.

Benjamin Franklin's studies on flying a kite in an electrical storm from 1752 show the first time anyone had proposed that lightning is electricity and not a supernatural force.

And Edward Stone's 1763 notes on the success of willow bark in treating fever document the beginnings of the discovery of salicylic acid and the production of aspirin -- now one of the world's most used medicines.

The creators of Trailblazing say it is a "go-at-your-own-pace" virtual journey through science which the Royal Society hopes will inspire members of the public to see science as part of everyday life and culture.

Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, said the papers showed "a ceaseless quest by scientists over the centuries...to test and build on our knowledge of humankind and the universe."

"They represent those thrilling moments when science allows us to understand better and to see further," he added.

The papers, taken from past issues of the oldest scientific journal in the English-speaking world, Philosophical Transactions, also include documents from 1776 on how Captain James Cook saved his sailors from scurvy with pickled cabbage, lemons and malt -- long before ideas about nutrition developed.   Continued...

 
<p>Benjamin Franklin flies a kite in a storm (1752). Franklin's studies on flying a kite in an electrical storm from 1752 show the first time anyone had proposed that lightening is electricity and not a supernatural force. REUTERS/The Royal Society/Handout</p>