Is This What They Mean by Evolution?

August 15, 2007

The journal Nature, one of the most venerable titles in scientific publication, has officially admitted women into its audience — but only by an oblique and seemingly grudging invitation. In an editorial published online this afternoon, the journal announced that it would amend its mission statement, which appears each week next to its table of contents.

The original statement, which dates to 1869, says that Nature’s mission is, among other things, “to aid scientific men themselves, by giving early information of all advances made in any branch of natural knowledge throughout the world.”

Nature’s editorial this week says that “our 1869 mission statement is out of date” and acknowledges that readers have complained about its continued use. But instead of altering the wording to replace “scientific men” with the neutral term “scientists,” Nature decided to solve its problem by inserting “[sic]” after “scientific men.” The editorial explains that the Latin term says, in effect, “alas, dear reader, this is what was said.” —Richard Monastersky