From our first research in 1840 to the multi-disciplinary information provider we are today…this is our history.
The journal was sent to all members of the provincial Medical and Surgical Association, forerunner of the BMA, in the same year the Uniform Penny Post was introduced.
Its successful use during the birth of Queen Victoria’s 8th child boosted its acceptance.
The BMJ’s editor Ernest Hart used the journal to expose the extent of the problem and the campaign led to the compulsory registration of all births, the reporting of infant deaths, and the registration of baby minders.
Lister was also publishing in The Lancet at the time, but while The Lancet criticised his theories on the antiseptic principle, The BMJ championed them.
View our video 'Joseph Lister: Surgery Transformed.'
His article seems as concerned with asserting the priority of his design over those of French surgeons as with the general superiority of his design.
In 1893 Ernest Hart spoke at a meeting of the American Medical Editors Association and advocated a system of peer review. Hart was a lone pioneer in this respect and peer review was not widely used in medical journals until after the second world war.
Image courtesy of Wellcome Library, London.
This was followed up with a commissioned series on “the new photography,” including “probably the first human angiograms.”
Patrick Manson and Ronald Ross published much of their work on malaria in The BMJ between 1894 and 1898.
Proprietary medicines were unregulated, often containing poisons. So in the 1900s The BMJ began revealing the composition, amounts and costs of popular preparations such as Carter’s Little Liver Pills. It did much to raise public awareness of the issue.
The BJO is the oldest specialist journal published by BMJ.
ADC was the first specialty journal to be established by the BMA. In the following two decades several more clinical journals were started, including Thorax, the British Heart Journal (now Heart), the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases and the Journal of Clinical Pathology.
This was one of the earliest randomised controlled trials. It led to an interest at the journal in statistical and research methods that endures to this day and has spread beyond The BMJ to inform the thinking behind Clinical Evidence and the evidence-based tools BMJ produces.
Richard Doll and Austin Bradford-Hill followed this with a further report in 1952 and three reports of their study of doctors’ mortality in relation to their smoking habits, in 1954, 1956 and 1964. By 1960 The BMJ was urging control of cigarette consumption; it stopped carrying advertisements for cigarettes in 1957.
View our video 'Richard Doll: The Man Who Quit Smoking.'
BMJ editor Hugh Clegg chaired the committee of the World Medical Association that produced the first draft of the Declaration of Helsinki (published in The BMJ in 1962). This work arose out of the revelations at the Nuremberg trials about the medical experiments of Nazi doctors.
ABCs and Books
In 1979 The BMJ produced its first ABC book, republished from a series in the journal – the ABC of Ophthalmology. The ABCs developed into a successful series of books, on the back of which BMJ built a separate book division. In 2004 The BMJ sold the business to Wiley Blackwell which has continued to publish books under the BMJ ABC imprint.
The BMJ pioneered new approaches to medical publishing, championing research into journal peer review, introducing conflict of interest statements for all articles, and adopting open peer review. In 1997 it co-founded the Committee on Publication Ethics.
It was the first general medical journal to do so and by 1998 bmj.com was publishing the free full text of all BMJ articles and had started Rapid Responses, its online letters pages. These were immediately popular and have remained so, with The BMJ receiving and publishing over 100 responses a week.
Clinical Evidence built on the work of the Cochrane Collaboration to create evidence based overviews of the benefits and harms of common treatments.
Hinari provides free medical and health journals to institutions in the developing world.
This BMJ theme issue highlighted the damage caused by overdiagnosis and overtreatment.
In the 19th Century the BMA and The BMJ were very close: the association was "little more than an annual meeting and a weekly journal." In the 20th Century their paths diverged and in 2003 the BMJ Publishing Group Ltd became a standalone entity with its own CEO and board. The move inaugurated a decade of growth.
BMJ Learning was established to offer high quality, accredited learning modules for continuing medical education for doctors and other health professionals. It now has hundreds of modules in 10 languages.
The BMJ kept research open access but started to charge for non-research content. It introduced author fees in 2010.
BMJ Masterclasses are interactive meetings led by experts to help clinicians use the latest evidence and guidelines in their practice.
The BMJ set up a Carbon Council, which in 2007 became the Climate and Health Council, to highlight the health impacts of climate change.
BMJ Group acquires OnExamination, a popular and leading online revision provider for undergraduate and postgraduate medical exams worldwide.
The first BMJ awards:
These annual awards recognise and celebrate the work of those in healthcare whose initiatives, hard work, and commitment help improve the quality of healthcare.
BMJ Best Practice launched:
This is based on the same systematic review information that informs Clinical Evidence but adds updated research and guidelines to provide concise decision support.
Tamiflu and open data campaign:
A Cochrane review and BMJ Investigation into the anti-influenza drug Tamiflu sparked a worldwide campaign for access to hidden clinical trial data.
Action sets from BMJ:
BMJ takes Best Practice a stage further and provides structured lists of the diagnostic and treatment orders and actions for a range of clinical conditions.
BMJ apps launched:
BMJ’s first apps were Best Health apps on child health, depression, and diabetes in December 2010. In January 2011 they were quickly followed by The BMJ, the first major medical journal available on an iPad app.
BMJ acquires Informatica, the office and clinical management systems for GPs
It has since developed performance systems for clinical commissioning groups and public health professionals.
BMJ Open launched as an online, author-pays, open access journal
Its online publishing process is based on open peer review, including access to the pre-publication history, and continuous publication. In 2013 three more Open journals were launched.
A series of BMJ Investigations about the MMR vaccine scare led a BMJ editorial to conclude that the 1998 Lancet paper that started the scare was “an elaborate fraud.”
In the 21st century most BMJ revenues originate from outside the UK and the group’s products are increasingly being designed for clinicians outside the UK. The Group now has editorial, sales, and support staff in a dozen countries, with major business and editorial centres in the US and India.
The BMJ launched an initiative to champion partnership between doctors and patients in healthcare and research.
BMJ Quality awarded 2014 E-Learning Gold award winner for 'Most innovative new learning product' and 'Best online distance learning programme.
Research to Publication launches in partnership with University College of San Francisco, making improved research quality and acceptance rates possible for early career academics.
BMJ Best Practice was ranked equal first for breadth of disease coverage, editorial quality, and evidence-based methodology in the independent review: "Providing Doctors With High-Quality Information: An Updated Evaluation of Web-Based Point-of-Care Information Summaries Journal of Medical Internet Research Vol 18, No 1 (2016): January."
BMJ and University of Cape Town Knowledge Translation Unit's PACK handbook empower primary healthcare workers. With localised guidelines, its practical and easy to use design is proving to be an invaluable tool for over 6,000 clinics across South Africa.