Journal of Cell Science is a peer-reviewed academic journal in the field of cell biology. The journal is currently published by the Company of Biologists from editorial offices in Cambridge, UK, with 24 annual issues.
Contributors to the first issue include T. H. Huxley, Joseph Lister, W. C. Williamson and George Shadbolt. The contents of the early issues are diverse, and include original research articles, translations of papers published in other languages, transactions of the meetings of the Microscopical Society of London (later the Royal Microscopical Society), and book reviews. The journal also published short notes and memoranda, aimed "to gather up fragments of information, which singly might appear to be useless but together are of great importance to science"; the editors encouraged non-specialist submissions to this section, considering that "there are few possessors of a Microscope who have not met with some stray fact or facts which, published in this way, may not lead to important results." The editors also intended "to relieve the graver and more strictly scientific matter of the Journal by lighter contributions, such as will be found useful to the beginner, not uninteresting to the advanced observer, and of interest perhaps to the general reader."
Lankester and Busk co-edited the journal until the end of 1868. Lankester continued to edit the journal with his son, E. Ray Lankester until the end of 1871.
In 1946 or 1947, George Parker Bidder, then the owner, gave the journal to the Company of Biologists, a company he had founded in 1925 in a successful bid to rescue the failing British Journal of Experimental Biology. Initially, Oxford University Press remained the publishers on behalf of the Company of Biologists, but production later transferred to Cambridge University Press. In 1952, the Company of Biologists became a registered charity, and full editorial control passed from the Company to the journal's editor-in-chief.
From 1946, the journal was edited jointly by Carl F. A. Pantin, an experimental zoologist and physiologist, and John R. Baker, a cytologist. Under the latter's influence, the journal accepted a growing number of papers in the relatively new discipline of cytology, now usually termed cell biology. After Pantin's retirement in 1960, the scope of the journal was refocused on the field of cytology, which the editors defined as "Everything that relates directly to the structure, chemical composition, physical nature, and functions of animal and plant cells, or to the techniques that are used in cytological investigations". Subsequent editors include H. G. Callan and A. V. Grimstone.
In 1966, the journal was redesigned and relaunched under the new title Journal of Cell Science, reflecting its altered scope. It continued to be published broadly quarterly until 1969, when the frequency increased to between six and nine annual issues. In the mid-to-late 1980s, to reduce publication lead times and compete more effectively with the US journal Cell, which had been launched in 1974, the Company of Biologists moved away from Cambridge University Press and set up its own in-house typesetting and printing for its journals, by then three in number, becoming pioneers in using disks from authors. Publication frequency also increased, at first to ten issues in 1987, then monthly between 1988 and 1995, finally becoming fortnightly in December 1996.
In addition to research papers and reviews, Journal of Cell Science includes critical commentaries and an occasional column, "Sticky Wickets", offering "controversial views of life-science research".