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ABSTRACT It is rare that a scholarly journal reaches its hundredth volume and also maintains its intellectual rank. Some explanations for the achievements of Isis suggest themselves. Two favorable circumstances were the timing of its founding, when there had grown up a small but critical mass of contributors and readers for such a journal, and that its founder was George Sarton, a person of wide‐ranging interests, passionate scholarship, and huge ambition. His frank program was to produce, with the aid of Isis, a synthesis of the histories of all sciences, at a time when similar unifying attempts were current in other fields. In brief, episodic examinations of the early decades of Isis, this essay shows Sarton's legendary energy at work, feeding his ever‐larger project and resulting in the founding of the History of Science Society, which gave the journal its institutional base. But a look at issues over more decades reveals that the original program subsided. The journal adopted a more pluralistic guiding philosophy. Yet it must also be acknowledged that during the transition period there was a backlash against the very authority of the history of science as its early practitioners saw the field.
© 2009 by The History of Science Society. All rights reserved. 0021‐1753/2009/10001‐0006$10.00