Comptes Rendus

A brief history of Comptes rendus de l'Académie des sciences

Birth of an academic journal

"In 1835, the most important event in the history of the Académie des sciences in the 19th century took place. Thanks to the fortune bequeathed by Baron de Montyon, who had died in 1820, the new and very active Permanent Secretary François Arago created the weekly Comptes rendus des séances de l'Académie des sciences. He thus responded both to the public's growing interest in the activities of the Académie, an interest often relayed by the press, and to the desire of some academicians to be more open.

Since 1795, the Académie des sciences had tried, without much success, to pursue the publication policy that had been part of the power of the former Académie royale. The volumes of the Mémoires de l'Académie or of foreign scholars were published with a great delay, which did not allow them to respond to the topicality of research or to the multiplication of works. Moreover, they met with competition from specialised scientific publications, such as the Annales de chimie.

On 3 August 1835, the first issue of a new publication, the Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l'Académie des sciences, appeared. Their scrupulously respected weekly frequency made it possible to quickly publicise new facts that could enrich the scientific debate. Open to all, they published, in extenso or in the form of extracts, not only the communications of the members of the Académie, but also the works of external researchers, whether they have been read in full during the session or only announced, and the correspondence read during the session. The Comptes rendus thus contributed to the renewed interest in the Academy's sessions. Their circulation reached a thousand copies around 1850, and more than two thousand at the end of the 19th century, and they were widely distributed in all libraries. Soon, they became the main publication of the Académie, and the one that most closely participated in the development of science, thus ensuring the international reputation of the Académie des sciences de l'Institut de France.

Scientists found it to be an instrument of primary importance for making themselves known, disseminating their work and keeping themselves informed of the work of others."

Presentation extracted from Christiane Demeulenaere-Douyère, « De l’Institut national à la réforme de 1796 : l’Académie des sciences aux XIXe et XXe siècles », dans Histoire et mémoire de l’Académie des sciences : guide de recherches, dir. Éric Brian et Christiane Demeulenaere-Douyère, Paris : éd. Lavoisier, 1996, p.36.



One journal, seven series

Initially a multidisciplinary journal, the Comptes rendus hebdomadaires de l'Académie des sciences have seen their scope evolve several times. The journal thus gave birth to four and then seven specialised series, the exact titles of which have undergone several changes of varying scope.

Four major stages can be distinguished:

  • 1835-1965: the Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l'Académie des sciences form a single, multidisciplinary series;
  • 1966: the Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l'Académie des sciences are divided into four series:
    • Série A : Sciences mathématiques,
    • Série B : Sciences physiques,
    • Série C : Sciences chimiques,
    • Série D : Sciences naturelles,
  • 1981: the general title was shortened to Comptes rendus de l'Académie des Sciences, and the disciplinary scope of each series was redefined:
    • Série I : Mathématique,
    • Série II : Mécanique, Physique, Chimie, Sciences de l’univers, Sciences de la Terre; from 1995 onwards, the series is in turn subdivided:
      • Série IIa : Sciences de la Terre et des planètes,
      • Série IIb : Mécanique, Physique, Chimie, Astronomie, which gives rise to :
        • 1998 : série IIc : Chimie,
        • 2000 : série IV : Physique,
    • Série III : Sciences de la vie,
  • 2002: the titles of all series are shortened again, and the new journal Comptes rendus now has seven series:
    • Mathématique,
    • Mécanique,
    • Physique,
    • Géoscience,
    • Chimie,
    • Biologies,
    • Palevol.

In parallel to these disciplinary series, a general series entitled Vie académique (from 1966 to 1983) then Vie des sciences (from 1984 to 1996) reports on the daily life of the Académie.


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The publishers of the Comptes Rendus

Since their transition to diamond open access (free for both readers and authors) at the beginning of 2020, the seven series of the Comptes rendus are published in partnership with two public infrastructures: the Scientific Publications Service of the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (Palevol series) and the centre Mersenne (other series).

Previously, the Comptes rendus de l'Académie des sciences were published in collaboration with several publishers:

1835-1864: Bachelier then Mallet-Bachelier;
1864-1991: Gauthier-Villars, successor of Mallet-Bachelier;
1991-1996: Dunod (series I and II) and John Libbey (series III);
1997-2019: Elsevier then Elsevier-Masson.

The Académie des Sciences has remained the sole owner of the title since its creation.

Since summer 2023, issues published between 2002 and 2019 in collaboration with Elsevier have been available in diamond open access directly on the websites of each series. The Académie des Sciences would like to extend its warmest thanks to the entire Elsevier France team, and in particular to its CEO, Daniel Rodriguez, for making this republication possible.