Digging through a box in my garage this week, I came across a treasure from days of yore (image below, scanned pdf version here). Below you will find Denatured a parody of the table of contents from Nature, filled with snarky comments about the journal, various leading researchers at the time, and laboratory life in general. This isn’t quite pre-internet humor, as by 1992, most of us working at universities had email addresses and access to discussion forums via Usenet, but it does qualify as pre-Web (Mosaic and the Trojan Room Coffee Pot wouldn’t appear for another year).

And so we had to rely on samizdat for the spread of cultural humor, as xeroxed copies like this one somehow made their way from lab to lab. I know little of the origins of this particular example (and if you do have more info, please reply below in the comments). The authors appear to be from the UK, given the spelling, and jokes about local research institutions and the Welsh Rugby Team. They were clearly scientists (as can be inferred from the one lame attempt at a naughty sex joke) and I’m guessing molecular biologists as the preponderance of scientists named are from that field.

Regardless of the details, it’s good to see that a lot of the humor still holds up, particularly the jokes aimed at publishing (whether in Denatured or its rival journal Cool). Some things never change.

journal parody

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.


9 Thoughts on "Ancient (1992) Piece of Science Humor Discovered"

RE: Rugby gene – so true! that was a particularly bad time for Welsh rugby, especially off the back of the 1991 World Cup and a crushing defeat by England of 24-0 in the 1992 five nations tournament (prior to Italy joining to make the modern six nations).

It really does read like a paper version of some novelty account’s twitter feed. Amazing find!

Reminds me of the groundbreaking paper on “The Development of the Turbo-Encabulator” By J. H. Quick.

“For a number of years now, work has been proceeding in order to bring perfection to the crudely conceived idea of a machine that would not only supply inverse reactive current for use in unilateral phase detractors, but would also be capable of automatically synchronizing cardinal grammeters.”

Have you got a copy of the Original “COOL” they’re talking about? I have..

(Was in LMB when both came out)

I don’t have that one but have heard of it. By all means, scan it and send it along!

Will have a look when I’m next in work. It is the context for this “Denatured” one!

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