A long long time ago, I wrote an article with George Shepherd on rejected classic articles in economics (here is the JSTOR link to the Journal of Economic Perspectives, 1994, for those with access). I had often been told that economics had a much higher rejection rate than the natural sciences. Well, it seems that the natural sciences are not immune. This paper [HT: Organizations & Markets] documents many cases in the natural sciences. Here is a typical entry:
The same Journal of Biological Chemistry also declined to publish the Nobel Prize winning work of Paul Boyer, as he recognized in an interview to his University magazine [Olney, 2000]. The work awarded with the 1997 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was the description of the molecular motor that creates cellular energy and the biochemical pump that transport such energy across membranes in cells. However, scepticism remained even after Boyer first published his theories in 1971 [Smaglik, 1997].
The economics incidents appear to be more prevalent in comparison to the list from the natural sciences but a definitive study is yet to be done.
Interestingly, the author of this paper — Juan Miguel Campanario –proudly advertises that the paper has been rejected from six journals and is still looking for a home. Ironically, thanks to the Internet, it has found one; something not available to the scientists of old.