Liz Wager on Newton and the history of fish

Liz WagerDelays in publication are not new and neither, it seems, are bureacratic hurdles which mean that institutions fail to recognise important things. According to Wikipedia the Royal Society had no money to print Newton’s Principia Mathematica because “the Society had just spent its book budget on a history of fish.” But, luckily, Edmund Halley realised the importance of Newton’s work and was prepared to bear the initial production costs.

I am tempted to try to find a copy of the infamous “history of fish” … as a non-mathematical zoologist it would probably make more sense to me than Newton’s classic anyway (and I bet it’s got nicer pictures). There is something both depressing and strangely reassuring to discover idiocies from over 300 years ago.

Liz Wager is a freelance writer, trainer and publications consultant who works for a number of pharmaceutical companies, communication agencies, publishers and academic institutions. She is also the Secretary of COPE (the Committee On Publication Ethics) and a member of the BMJ’s Ethics Committee.