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This year marks the 70th birthday of Thorax and as two septuagenarian ex-editors whose involvement with the journal dates back to 1973, we have been asked by the present editors to select some notable papers published over its lifetime. The choice was ours and our successors’, reflecting our judgement of what has stood the test of time. Originally the journal of the Thoracic Society, Thorax was founded by British cardiothoracic surgeons and physicians, had joint medical and surgical editors and similar numbers of medical and surgical papers, many dealing with cardiac and oesophageal disease. The original publisher was the British Medical Association, but from 1979 this was shared with the Thoracic Society, and subsequently the British Thoracic Society, making a useful contribution to the Society's funds. Chest medicine was largely concerned with TB in the mid-20th century with other lung conditions being dealt with by general physicians. However, as asthma and chronic lung diseases attracted increasing research interest during the 1960s, the scope of respiratory medicine widened and new medical topics contributed increasingly to Thorax as cardiac and surgical papers declined. We have confined our selection to those of interest to today's respiratory physicians, so many excellent non-respiratory papers have been excluded. We have selected papers by going through the indices and rereading those that seem especially important. The task has not been simple, but was greatly aided by access to http://www.thorax.bmj.com.
The early years: 1946–1969
In the 1940s and 1950s, TB made little impact in Thorax save through surgical papers. Lung cancer was on the rise, and the first issue contained a major article by one of the journal's founders, Tudor Edwards, on his unparalleled experience of surgery of this disease.1 Also in that issue was the first article by Doll who was shortly to confirm the cancer–smoking association; he reported …