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Our history

From our first research in 1840 to the multi-disciplinary information provider we are today…this is our history.

  • Timeline

    The Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal established

    The same year the world's first postage stamp, Penny Black, launched. The Journal was sent to all members of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association, forerunner of the BMA.

    The Journal was later renamed The British Medical Journal (The BMJ) in 1857. Still to this day, it continues to be sent weekly to BMA members.

  • Timeline

    James Simpson reports the discovery of chloroform in the Journal

    Its successful use during the birth of Queen Victoria’s 8th child boosted its acceptance.

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    BMJ campaigns against baby farming

    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.

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    The BMJ publishes articles by Joseph Lister on antisepsis in surgery

    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.'

  • Timeline

    Early peer review at The BMJ

    Ernest Hart spoke at a meeting of the American Medical Editors Association and advocated a system of peer review.

    The BMJ Editor in Chief 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.

  • Timeline

    Link between Anopheles mosquito and malaria published in The BMJ

    Sirs Patrick Manson and Ronald Ross, considered by many to be the fathers of tropical medicine, published much of their work on malaria in The BMJ between 1894 and 1898.

  • Timeline

    British Journal of Ophthalmology (BJO) formed

    The BJO is the oldest specialist journal published by BMJ.

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    The BMJ publishes MRC streptomycin trial

    One of the earliest randomised controlled trials that led to an interest in statistical and research methods that endures to this day. This has spread beyond The BMJ to inform the thinking behind our evidence-based tools.

    Learn more about these tools: BMJ Best Practice

  • Timeline

    Doll and Bradford Hill publish first report on smoking and lung cancer in The BMJ

    Richard Doll and Austin Bradford-Hill changed history when they followed this with a further report in 1952 and three more 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.'

  • Timeline

    Declaration of Helsinki

    The 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.

  • Timeline

    The BMJ launches itself into cyberspace

    The first general medical journal to go online. By 1998 was publishing its free full text of all BMJ articles and had started Rapid Responses online letters pages.

    Their popularity has remained to this day, with The BMJ receiving and publishing over 100 responses a week.

  • Timeline

    BMJ Clinical Evidence

    Clinical Evidence built on the work of the Cochrane Collaboration to create evidence based overviews of the benefits and harms of common treatments.

  • Timeline

    BMJ co-founds Hinari

    As one of the founding members of HINARI, we have provided free access to all of our journals and journals archive to local, not-for-profit institutions in developing countries for over 12 years.

    This means there is no need for them to subscribe to access the full text; they automatically qualify for free access.

    We have set up a page so you can find out more about all our global health initiatives.

  • Timeline

    "Too Much Medicine"

    This BMJ theme issue highlighted the damage caused by overdiagnosis and overtreatment.

  • Timeline

    BMJ becomes wholly owned subsidiary

    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.

  • Timeline

    BMJ Learning launched

    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.

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    Hybrid business model for online access

    The BMJ kept research open access but started to charge for non-research content. It introduced author fees in 2010.

  • Timeline

    BMJ Masterclasses start

    BMJ Masterclasses are interactive meetings led by experts to help clinicians use the latest evidence and guidelines in their practice.

  • Timeline

    Climate and Health Council

    The BMJ set up a Carbon Council, which in 2007 became the Climate and Health Council, to highlight the health impacts of climate change.

  • Timeline

    Acquisition of OnExamination

    BMJ Group acquires OnExamination, a popular and leading online revision provider for undergraduate and postgraduate medical exams worldwide.

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    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.

  • Timeline

    Action sets from BMJ, BMJ apps launched

    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.

  • Timeline


    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.

    MMR investigation
    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.”

  • Timeline

    An international information provider

    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.

  • Timeline

    The Patient revolution

    The BMJ launched an initiative to champion partnership between doctors and patients in healthcare and research.

  • Timeline

    BMJ Quality wins Double-Gold

    BMJ Quality awarded 2014 E-Learning Gold award winner for 'Most innovative new learning product' and 'Best online distance learning programme.

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    Launch of BMJ's eLearning 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.

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    BMJ Best Practice ranked one of the best clinical decision support tools for health professionals worldwide.

    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."

  • Timeline

    Practical Approach to Care Kit (PACK) eBook made available

    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.