The Royal Society archive in now online

Saturday, October 29, 2011
Meeting of the Royal Society of London
The Royal Society has placed an archive of their journals online. The archive covers papers published fro 70 years ago to their earliest, which dates to 1665. The archived documents are freely available. As they explain in their announcement of the new online archive:
The Royal Society is the world’s oldest scientific publisher, with the first edition of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society appearing in 1665.  Henry Oldenburg – Secretary of the Royal Society and first Editor of the publication – ensured that it was “licensed by the council of the society, being first reviewed by some of the members of the same”, thus making it the first ever peer-reviewed journal.

Philosophical Transactions had to overcome early setbacks including plague, the Great Fire of London and even the imprisonment of Oldenburg, but against the odds the publication survived to the present day.  Its foundation would eventually be recognised as one of the most pivotal moments of the scientific revolution.
They point to some papers of particular interest are historical pieces such as Isaac Newton’s first published scientific paper, geological work by a young Charles Darwin, and Benjamin Franklin’s account of his electrical kite experiment.

I found myself just plugging a random year into the archive's search engine and browsing the titles for articles of interest. In many ways I found the obscure papers more interesting than the historical ones because they reveal a scope of curiosity that is truly astonishing.

Early subjects like Directions for Sea-Men, Bound for Far Voyages, or later ones like Antony van Lewenhoek reporting on his careful and detailed examination of the Circulation and Stagnation of the Blood in Tadpoles or Robert Boyd's Tables of the Weights of the Human Body and the Internal Organs in the Sane and Insane of Both Sexes at Various Ages give a clear view of the effort and thought that fashioned the individual bricks that built  modern science.

Be warned, if you like the history of science this site is going to consume a lot of your time.