Editors of the Phil Trans

Here you can find an overview of all the women and men who have acted as editors (or similar roles) throughout the years. Note that there is considerable ambiguity about the term ‘editor’. It is used here for ease of understanding to cover the period from inception (1665) until the Royal Society’s takeover of the journal (1752) even though ‘author’ or ‘publisher’ were the more common contemporary terms.


Between 1752 and 1968, it is assumed that one or both of the two secretaries of the Society acted, with input from the Council, as managing editor of the journal, responsible for negotiating with printers (and, from 1887, that each secretary took responsibility for either series A or B). The extent to which this was true in practice remains to be seen. It is already clear that many other individuals influenced the content of the journal, including those refereeing individual papers; those on the Committee of Papers; and members of the Council who approved the final decisions on what papers to publish. From 1968, the secretaries were assigned a group of associate editors to assist them in compiling the Philosophical Transactions. In 1990, official editors were appointed.

Secretaries of Royal Society acting as Editors of Philosophical Transactions

1665: Henry Oldenburg (Founder)

1677: Nehemiah Grew

1679: No Journal

1682: Francis Aston & Robert Plot

1684: Francis Aston & William Musgrave

1686: Edmond Halley (as Clerk to the Royal Society)

1691: Richard Waller

1695: Hans Sloane

1714: Edmond Halley (as Secretary)

1720: James Jurin

1727: William Rutty

1729: Cromwell Mortimer

1751: Committee of Papers assumes responsibility for the selection of papers, from 1752 to 1968.  Secretaries retain managerial responsibilities.

Note: This arrangement is formalised in 1752, and the first volume is a backdated one covering 1751-52.

Note also: the following division of Secretarial responsibilities into Physical and Biological Sciences follows the Society’s own classification, which has been retroactively imposed for the period prior to 1887.

Biological Sciences                               Physical Sciences

1827: Peter Mark Roget                         Lieut.-Col. Edward Sabine

1830:                                                          John George Children

1837:                                                          Samuel Hunter Christie

1848: Thomas Bell

1853: William Sharpey

1854:                                                          George Gabriel Stokes

1872: Thomas Henry Huxley

1881: Michael Foster

1885:                                                          Lord Rayleigh

1896:                                                          Arthur William Rucker

1901:                                                          Joseph Larmor

1903: Sir Archibald Geikie

1908: John Rose Bradford

1912:                                                          Arthur Schuster

1915: William Bate Hardy

1919:                                                         James Hopwood Jeans

1925: Henry Hallett Dale

1929:                                                         Frank Edward Smith

1935: Archibald Vivian Hill

1938: Alfred Charles Glynn Egerton

1945: Sir Edward Salisbury

1948:                                                         Sir David Brunt

1955: Sir Lindor Brown

1957:                                                         Sir William Hodge

1963: Sir Ashley Miles

1965:                                                         Sir James Lighthill

1968: Sir Bernard Katz

1969:                                                         Sir Harrie Massey

1976: Sir David Phillips

1978:                                                         Sir Morris Sugden

1983: Sir David Smith

1984:                                                         Sir Roger Elliot

1987: Brian Keith Follett

1988:                                                        Sir Francis Graham-Smith

*In 1990, the first official ‘editor’ (i.e. not an RS Secretary) was assigned for each of the series

Editors of Philosophical Transactions A

1990–1996: Professor F. T. Smith

1997–2007: J. M. T. Thompson

2008–2010: Michael Pepper

2011– C. David Garner

See the modern website for more information.

Editors of Philosophical Transactions B

1990–1994: Dr Q. Bone

1995–1996: Professor P. D. Wall

1997–2005: Professor S. Zeki

2006–2007: Sir Brian Heap

2008–2010: Professor Georgina Mace* first female editor (below, left)

2011– 2016: Professor Dame Linda Partridge* second female editor (below, right)


2016 – : Professor John Pickett

See the modern website for more information.