Dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants

Did you know that you can consult articles from the first ever issues of the Zeitschrift für Physik published in 1920 and the Physical Review written in 1893 without even having to leave your office? The CERN Library now offers access to more historical texts than ever before.

Jens Vigen, head of Scientific Information Service.

Even in as dynamic a field as particle physics, today’s research relies on the results of the past and sometimes takes up old lines of thought again. Consulting old articles used to mean trawling through dusty old tomes in the library but these collections have now been brought into the digital era.

Over the last decade, the CERN Library has built up a large collection of electronic archives, which are not confined to physics as the Library offers on-line access to all the journals and magazines published by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) and the associated archives.

This year the ‘Journal de Physique’ on-line archive collections from EDP Sciences have been added to the list. The archives, which feature a search engine operating with different search strategies, contain over 48,500 articles, some dating back to 1872. This means that you can read articles by Pierre and Marie Curie published in the Journal de Physique Théorique et Appliquée, for example, without having to go through the inter-library loan service. Two clicks and you’re there! With this new resource, the Library now offers access to the archives of over 200 scientific journals. And there’s more to come: other electronic archives, such as the Nuovo Cimento, should be available very soon.

The CERN Library’s collection of on-line archives is gradually expanding every year. In the meantime, the oldest scientific journals in the catalogue can be consulted on Gallica, a service provided by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. This pioneering site offers free access to prestigious reviews such as the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, which date back to 1665.

For access to the complete archives of the CERN Library, go to:


For the archives of the Journal de Physique, go to: