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The current premises of The Royal Society, 6–9 Carlton House Terrace, London (first four properties only).

The Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is arguably the oldest such society in existence.[1] Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London". The Society was initially an extension of the "Invisible College", with the founders intending for it to be a place of research and discussion. The Society today acts as a scientific advisor to Her Majesty's Government, receiving a grant-in-aid from them, funding a variety of research fellowships and scientific start-up companies and acting as the United Kingdom's Academy of Sciences.

The Society is governed by its Council, which is chaired by Society's President, according to a set of Statutes and Standing Orders. The members of Council and the President are elected from and by its Fellows, the basic members of the Society, who are themselves elected by existing Fellows. There are currently 1,314 Fellows, allowed to use the postnominal title FRS (Fellow of the Royal Society), with 44 new Fellows appointed each year. There are also Royal Fellows, Honorary Fellows and Foreign Fellows, the last of which are allowed to use their postnomial title ForMemRS (Foreign Member of the Royal Society). The current President is Lord Rees of Ludlow. Since 1967, the Society has been based at 6–9 Carlton House Terrace, a Grade I listed building in central London that underwent a substantial renovation between 1999 and November 2003.




Founding and early years

John Evelyn, who helped found the Royal Society.

The Royal Society started as a group of approximately 12 scientists, known as the Invisible College, which met at a variety of locations, including the houses of their members and Gresham College. Members at particular times were John Wilkins, Jonathan Goddard, Robert Hooke, Christopher Wren, William Petty, and Robert Boyle. The group discussed the "new science", as promoted by Francis Bacon in his New Atlantis, from approximately 1645 onwards.[2] It initially had no rules or methods, and the primary goals were to organise and view experiments and communicate their discoveries to each other.[3] The group varied over time, eventually splitting into two distinct factions in 1638 due to travel distances; the London Society and the Oxford Society. The Oxford Society was more active owing to the fact that many members of the overall College lived there, and was established as The Philosophical Society of Oxford, run under a set of rules still retained by the Bodleian Library.[4]

The London group continued to meet at Gresham College, primarily after lectures hosted by Christopher Wren. The membership expanded at this time, growing to include Lord Brouncker and Timothy Clarke.[5] It was forced to disband in 1658 during the English Civil War after soldiers invaded their rooms; after the English Restoration, they returned to meeting at Gresham College.[6] It is widely held that these groups were the inspiration for the foundation of the Royal Society.[4]

An alternate view of the founding, held at the time, was that it was due to the influence of French scientists and the Montmor Academy in 1657, reports of which were sent back to England by English scientists attending. This view was held by Jean-Baptiste du Hamel, Giovanni Domenico Cassini, Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle and Melchisédech Thévenot at the time, and has some grounding in that Henry Oldenburg, the Society's first Secretary, had attended the Montmor Academy meeting.[7] Robert Hooke, however, disputed this, writing that:

"[Cassini] makes, then, Mr Oldenburg to have been the instrument, who inspired the English with a desire to imitate the French, in having Philosophical Clubs, or Meetings; and that this was the occasion of founding the Royal Society, and making the French the first. I will not say, that Mr Oldenburg did rather inspire the French to follow the English, or, at least, did help them, and hinder us. But 'tis well known who were the principal men that began and promoted that design, both in this city and in Oxford; and that a long while before Mr Oldenburg came into England. And not only these Philosophic Meetings were before Mr Oldenburg came from Paris; but the Society itself was begun before he came hither; and those who then knew Mr Oldenburg, understood well enough how little he himself knew of philosophic matter"[8]

On 28 November 1660, a group of scientists from and influenced by the Invisible College met at Gresham College and announced the formation of a "College for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematical Experimental Learning", which would meet weekly to discuss science and run experiments. At the second meeting, Sir Robert Moray announced that the King approved of the gatherings, and a Royal Charter was signed on 15 July 1662 which created the "Royal Society of London", with Lord Brouncker serving as the first President. A second Royal Charter was signed on 23 April 1663, with the King noted as the Founder and with the name of "The Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge"; Robert Hooke was appointed as Curator of Experiments in November. This initial royal favour has continued, and since then every monarch has been the patron of the Society.[9]

The Society's early meetings consisted almost entirely of experiments, demonstrated first by Hooke and then by Denis Papin, who was appointed in 1684. The Society also published an English translation of Essays of Natural Experiments Made in the Accademia del Cimento, under the Protection of the Most Serene Prince Leopold of Tuscany in 1884, an Italian book documenting experiments at the Accademia del Cimento.[10] The early experiments varied in their subject area, and were both important in some cases and trivial in others.[11] Although meeting at Gresham College, the Society temporarily relocated to Arundel House in 1666 after the Great Fire of London, which did not harm Gresham but did lead to its appropriation by the Lord Mayor. The Society returned to Gresham in 1673.[12]

There had been an attempt in 1667 to establish a permanent "College" for the society. Michael Hunter argues that this was influenced by "Solomon's House" in Bacon's New Atlantis, and to a lesser extent by J.V. Andreae's Christianopolis, dedicated research institutes, rather than the colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, since the founders only intended for the Society to act as a location for research and discussion. The first proposal was given by John Evelyn to Robert Boyle in a letter dated 3 September 1659; he suggested a far grander scheme, with apartments for members and a central research institute. Similar schemes were expounded by Bengt Skytte and later Abraham Cowley, who wrote in his Proposition for the Advancement of Experimental Philosophy in 1661 of a "'Philosophical College", with houses, a library and a chapel. The Society's ideas contained none of this complexity, and only included residences for a handful of staff, but Hunter maintains that they probably drew inspiration from Cowley and Sktyye's ideas.[13] Henry Oldenburg and Thomas Sprat put forward ideas in 1667, and Oldenburg's co-Secretary John Wilkins moved in a Council meeting on 30 September 1667 to appoint a Committee "for raising contributions among the members of the society, in order to build a college".[14] These plans were progressing by November 1667, but never reached fruition due to the lack of contributions from members and the "unrealised - perhaps unrealistic -" aspirations of the Society.[15]

18th century

Lord Hardwicke, leader of the "Hardwicke Circle" which dominated Society politics during the 1750s and 60s.

During the 18th century, the gusto, which had characterised the early years of the Society, faded; with a small number of scientific "greats" compared to other periods, little of note was done. In the second half, it became customary for Her Majesty's Government to refer highly important scientific questions to the Council of the Society for advice, something that, despite the non-partisan nature of the Society, spilled into politics in 1777 over lightning conductors. The pointed lightning conductor had been invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1749, while Benjamin Wilson invented blunted ones. During the argument that occurred when deciding which to use, opponents of Franklin's invention accused supporters of being American allies rather than being British, and the debate eventually led to the resignation of the Society's President, Sir John Pringle. During the same time period, it became customary to appoint society Fellows to serve on government committees where science was concerned, something that still continues.[16]

The 18th century did, however, feature remedies to many of the Society's early problems. The number of Fellows had increased from 110 to approximately 300 by 1739, the reputation of the Society had increased under the Presidency of Sir Isaac Newton from 1703 until his death in 1727,[17] and editions of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society were appearing regularly.[18] During his time as President, Newton arguably abused his authority; in a dispute between himself and Gottfried Leibniz over the invention of Infinitesimal calculus, he used his position to appoint an "impartial" committee to decide it, eventually publishing a report written by himself in the committee's name.[17] In 1705, the Society was informed that it could no longer rent Gresham College, and began a search for new premises. After unsuccessfully applying to Queen Anne for new premises, and asking the trustees of Cotton House if they could meet there, the Council bought two houses in Crane Court, Fleet Street, on 26 October 1710.[19] This included offices, accommodation and a Collection of Curiosities. Although the overall Fellowship contained few noted scientists, most of the Council were highly regarded, and included at various times John Hadley, William Jones and Hans Sloane.[20] Because of the laxness of Fellows in paying their subscriptions, the Society ran into financial difficulty during this time; by 1740, the Society had a deficit of £240. This continued into 1741, at which point the Treasurer began dealing harshly with Fellows who had not paid.[21] The business of the Society at this time continued to include the demonstration of experiments and the reading of formal and important scientific papers, along with the demonstration of new scientific devices and queries about scientific matters from both Britain and Europe.[22]

Some modern research has asserted that the claims of the Society's degradation during the 18th century are false. Richard Sorrenson writes that "far from having 'fared ingloriously,' the Society experienced a period of significant productivity and growth throughout the eighteenth century", pointing out that many of the sources critical accounts are based on are in fact written by those with an agenda.[23] While Charles Babbage wrote that the practice of pure mathematics in Britain was weak, laying the blame at the doorstep of the Society, the practice of mixed mathematics was strong, and although there were not many eminent members of the Society, some did contribute vast amounts - James Bradley, for example, established the nutation of the Earth's axis with 20 years of detailed, meticulous astronomy.[24]

Politically within the Society, the mid-18th century featured a "Whig supremacy", as the so-called "Hardwicke Circle" of Whig-leaning scientists held the Society's main Offices. Named after Lord Hardwicke, the groups members included Daniel Wray and Thomas Birch, and was most prominent in the 1750s and 60s. The Circle had Birch elected Secretary, and, following the resignation of Martin Folkes, the Circle helped oversee a smooth transition to the Presidency of Earl Macclesfield, who Hardwicke helped elect.[25] Under Macclesfield, the Circle reached its "zenith", with members such as Lord Willoughby and Birch serving as Vice-President and Secretary, respectively. The Circle also influenced goings-on in other learned societies, such as the Society of Antiquaries of London. After Macclesfield's retirement, the Circle had Lord Morton elected in 1764, and Sir John Pringle elected in 1772.[26] By this point, the previous Whig "majority" had been reduced to a "faction", with Birch and Willoughby no longer involved, and the Circle declined in the same time frame as the political party did in British politics under George III, falling apart in the 1780s.[27]

In 1780, the Society moved again, this time to Somerset House. The property was offered to the Society by Her Majesty's Government, and as soon as Sir Joseph Banks became President in November 1778, he began planning the move. Somerset House, while larger than Crane Court, was not satisfying to the Fellows; the room to store the library was too small, the accommodation was insufficient, and there was not enough room to store the museum at all. As a result, the museum was handed to the British Museum in 1781, and the library was extended to two rooms, one of which was used for Council meetings.[28]

19th century to the present

Burlington House, where the Society was based between 1873 and 1967.

The early 19th century has been seen as a time of decline for the society; of 662 fellows in 1830, only 104 had contributed to the Philosophical Transactions. The same year, Charles Babbage published Reflections on the Decline of Science in England, and on Some of Its Causes, which was deeply critical of the Society. The scientific Fellows of the Society were spurred into action by this, and eventually James South established a Charters Committee "with a view to obtaining a supplementary Charter from the Crown", aimed primarily at looking at ways to restrict membership. The Committee recommended that the election of Fellows take place on one day every year, that the Fellows be selected on consideration of their scientific achievements and that the number of fellows elected a year be limited to 15. This limit was increased to 17 in 1930 and 20 in 1937;[16] it is currently 44.[29] This had a number of effects on the Society: first, the Society's membership became almost entirely scientific, with few political Fellows or patrons. Second, the number of Fellows was significantly reduced—between 1700 and 1850, the number of Fellows rose from approximately 100 to approximately 750. From then until 1941, the total number of Fellows was always between 400 and 500.[30]

The period did lead to some reform of internal Society statutes, such as in 1823 and 1831. The most important change there was the requirement that the Treasurer publish an annual report, along with a copy of the total income and expenditure of the Society. These were to be sent to Fellows at least 14 days before the general meeting, with the intent being to ensure the election of competent Officers by making it readily apparent what existing Officers were doing. This was accompanied by a full list of Fellows standing for Council positions, where previously the names had only been announced a couple of days before. As with the other reforms, this helped ensure that Fellows had a chance to vet and properly consider candidates.[31] The Society's financial troubles were finally resolved in 1850, when a government grant-in-aid of £1,000 a year was accepted. This was increased to £4,000 in 1876, with the Society officially acting merely as the trustee for these funds, doling them out to individual scientists.[32]

By 1852, the congestion at Somerset House had increased thanks to the growing number of Fellows. Therefore, the Library Committee asked the Council to petition Her Majesty's Government to find new facilities, with the advice being to bring all the scientific societies, such as the Linnean and Geological societies, under one roof. In August 1866, the government announced their intention to refurbish Burlington House and move the Royal Academy and other societies there. The Academy moved in 1867, while other societies joined when their facilities were built. The Royal Society moved there in 1873, taking up residence in the East Wing.[33] The top floor was used as accommodation for the Assistant Secretary, while the library was scattered over every room and the old caretaker's apartment was converted into offices. One flaw was that there was not enough space for the office staff, which was then approximately eighty. When, for example, the Society organised the British contribution to the International Geophysical Year in 1954, additional facilities had to be found for the staff outside Burlington House.[34]

On 22 March 1945, the first female Fellows were elected to the Royal Society. This followed a statutory amendment in 1944 that read "Nothing herein contained shall render women ineligible as candidates", and was contained in Chapter 1 of Statute 1. Because of the difficulty of coordinating all the Fellows during the Second World War, a ballot on making the change was conducted via the post, with 336 Fellows supporting the change and 37 opposing.[35] Following approval by the Council, Marjory Stephenson and Kathleen Lonsdale were elected as Fellows.[35]

In September 2008, the Royal Society's Director of Education Michael Reiss suggested that, rather than dismissing creationism without discussing it, teachers should take the time to explain why creationism had no scientific basis.[36] His views were presented in some media reports as lending support to teaching creationism as a valid scientific theory, but both he and the Royal Society later stated that this was a misrepresentation.[37][38] Reiss resigned within days.[39]

Coat of Arms

The coat of arms of the Royal Society

The Coat of Arms of the Royal Society, is "in a dexter corner of a shield argent our three Lions of England, and for crest a helm adorned with a crown studded with florets, surmounted by an eagle of proper colour holding in one foot a shield charged with our lions: supporters two white hounds gorged with crowns", with the motto of "nullius in verba". John Evelyn, interested in the early structure of the Society, had sketched out at least six possible designs, but in August 1662 Charles II told the Society that it was allowed to use the arms of England as part of its coat, and the Society "now resolv'd that the armes of the Society should be, a field Argent, with a canton of the armes of England; the supporters two talbots Argent; Crest, an eagle Or holding a shield with the like armes of England, viz. 3 lions. The words Nullius in verba". This was approved by Charles, who asked Garter King of Arms to create a diploma for it, and when the second Charter was signed on 22 April 1663 the arms were granted to the President, Council and Fellows of the Society, along with their successors.[40]

The helmet of the arms was not specified in the Charter, but the engraver sketched out a peer's helmet on the final design, which is used. This is contrary to the heraldic rules, as a society or corporation normally has an esquire's helmet; it is thought that either the engraver was ignorant of this rule, which was not strictly adhered to until around 1615, or that he used the peer's helmet as a compliment to Vicount Brouncker, a peer and the President of the Royal Society.[41] The motto, "nullius in verba", is Latin for "Take nobody's word for it", and was adopted to signify the Fellows' determination to establish facts via experiments. It comes from Horace's Epistles, where he compares himself to a gladiator who, having retired, is free from control.[42]

Functions and activities

The Society has a variety of functions and activities. It supports modern science; it finances approximately 700 research fellowships both early and late career scientists,[43] along with innovation, mobility and research capacity grants.[44] Its Awards, prize lectures and medals all come with prize money intended to finance research,[45] and it provides subsidised communications and media skills courses for research scientists.[46] In 2008, the Society opened the Royal Society Enterprise Fund, intended to invest in new scientific companies and be self-sustaining, funded (after an initial set of donations on the 350th anniversary of the Society) by the returns from its investments.[47]

Through its Science Policy Centre, the Society acts as an advisor to the European Commission and the United Nations on matters of science. It publishes several reports a year, and serves as the Academy of Sciences of the United Kingdom.[48] Since the middle of the 18th century, government problems involving science were irregularly referred to the Society, and by 1800 it was done regularly. The Society now formally acts as Her Majesty Government's chief scientific advisor,[49] and is the United Kingdom's Academy for Sciences.[50]


Through Royal Society Publishing, the Society publishes a variety of books and journals, as well as internal reports.[51] The Society publishes a number of journals:

Philosophical Transactions is the longest-running scientific journal in the world, having first been published in March 1665 by the first Secretary of the Society Henry Oldenburg. It is currently divided into two parts; A, which deals with mathematics and the physical sciences,[52] and B, which deals with the biological sciences.[53] Proceedings consists of abstracts from articles published in Philosophical Transactions, and is similarly divided into two parts.[54] Biology Letters publishes short opinion pieces or articles on areas of biology, having been started in 2005.[55] Interface publishes research that intersects the divide between the physical and life sciences,[56] while Notes and Records is the Society journal on the history of science.[57] Biological Memoirs is published annually and contains memoirs of deceased Fellows.[58]

Apart from the Philosophical Transactions, other early works include Thomas Sprat's History of the Royal Society of London in 1667, a translation of Essays of Natural Experiments Made in the Accademia del Cimento, under the Protection of the Most Serene Prince Leopold of Tuscany in 1884 and Newton's Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687.[11]

Structure and governance

The Society is governed by its Council, which is chaired by the Society's President, according to a set of Statutes and Standing Orders. The members of Council, the President and the other Officers are elected from and by its Fellowship.


The Society's core members are the Fellows; scientists and engineers from the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth selected based on having made "a substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathematics, engineering science and medical science".[59] Fellows are elected for life, and gain the right to use the postnomial Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) title. The rights and responsibilities of Fellows also include a duty to financially contribute to the Society, the right to stand for Council posts and the right to elect new Fellows.[60] Forty four Fellows are elected each year, and there are currently 1,314 in total.[29]. Election to the Fellowship is decided by ten Sectional Committees (each covering a subject area or set of subjects areas) which consist of existing Fellows.

The Society also elects Royal Fellows, Honorary Fellows and Foreign Members. Royal Fellows are those members of the Monarchy of the United Kingdom, who are recommended by the Society's Council and elected via postal vote. There are currently four Royal Fellows; Prince Philip, Prince Edward, the Princess Royal and the Prince of Wales.[61] Honorary Fellows are people who are ineligible to be elected Fellows, but nevertheless have "rendered signal service to the cause of science, or whose election would significantly benefit the Society by their great experience in other walks of life". Six Honorary Fellows have been elected to date, including Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve.[62] Foreign Members are scientists from non-Commonwealth nations "who are eminent for their scientific discoveries and attainments". Eight are elected each year by the Society, and also hold their Membership for life. Foreign Members are permitted to use the postnomial ForMemRS (Foreign Member of the Royal Society) title, and currently number 137.[29]

The appointment of Fellows was first authorised in the second Charter, issued on 22 April 1663, which allowed the President and Council, in the two-months following the signing, to appoint as Fellows any individuals they see fit. This saw the appointment of 94 Fellows on 20 May and 4 on 22 June; these 98 are known as the "Original Fellows". After the expiration of this two-month period, any appointments were to be made by the President, Council and existing Fellows.[63] Many early Fellows were not scientists or particularly eminent intellectuals; it was clear that the early Society could not rely on financial assistance from the King, and scientifically trained Fellows were few and far between. It was therefore necessary to secure the favour of wealthy or important individuals for the Society's survival.[64] While the entrance fee of £4 and the subscription rate of one shilling a week should have produced £600 a year for the Society, many Fellows paid neither regularly nor on time.[65] Two-thirds of the Fellows in 1663 were non-scientists; this rose to 71.6% in 1800 before dropping to 47.4% in 1860 as the financial security of the Society became more certain.[66] In May 1846, a Committee recommended limiting the annual intake of members to 15 and insisting on scientific eminence; this was implemented, with the result being that the Society now consists exclusively of scientific Fellows.[67]


The Council is a body of 21 Fellows, including the Officers (the President, the Treasurer, two Secretaries - one from the physical sciences, one from life sciences - and the Foreign Secretary), one Fellow to represent each Sectional Committee and seven other Fellows.[68] The Council is tasked with directing the Society's overall policy, managing all business related to the Society, amending, making or repealing the Society's Standing Orders and acting as trustees for the Society's possessions and estates. Members are elected annually via a postal ballot, and current Standing Orders mean that at least ten seats must change hands each year.[69] The Council may establish (and is assisted by) a variety of Committees,[69] which can include not only Fellows but also outside scientists.[68] Under the Charter, the President, 2 Secretaries and the Treasurer are collectively the Officers of the Society.[70] The current officers are:


The President of the Royal Society is head of both the Society and the Council. The details for the Presidency were set out in the second Charter, and initially had no limit on how long a President could serve for; under current Society statute, he can not serve for more than 5 years. The current President is Lord Rees of Ludlow.[72] Historically, the duties of the President have been both formal and social. The Cruelty to Animals Act 1876 left the President as one of the only individuals capable of certifying that a particular experiment on an animal was justified, and in addition he acted as the government's chief (albeit informal) advisor on scientific matters. At the same time, the President was tasked with entertaining distinguished foreign guests and scientists.[73]

Permanent staff

The Society is assisted by a number of full-time, paid staff. The original Charter provided for "two or more Operators of Experiments, and two or more clerks"; as the number of books in the Society's collection grew, it also became necessary to employ a curator. The staff grew as the financial position of the Society improved, mainly consisting of outsiders, along with a small number of scientists who were required to resign their Fellowship on employment.[74] The current senior members of staff are:[75]

Carlton House Terrace

6–9 Carlton House Terrace is a Grade I listed building and the current headquarters of the Royal Society, which moved there from Burlington House in 1967.[76] The ground floor and basement are used for ceremonies, social and publicity events, the first floor hosts facilities for Fellows and Officers of the Society, and the second and third floors are divided between offices and accommodation for the President, Executive Secretary and Fellows.[77] The first Carlton House was named after Baron Carleton, and was sold to Lord Chesterfield in 1732, who held it on trust for Frederick, Prince of Wales. Frederick held his court there until his death in 1751, after which it was occupied by his widow until her death in 1772. In 1783, the then-Prince of Wales George bought the house, instructing his architect Henry Holland to completely remodel it. When George became King, he authorised the demolition of Carlton House, with the request that the replacement be a residential area. John Nash eventually completed a design that saw Carlton House turned into two blocks of houses, with a space in between them.[78] The building is still owned by the Crown Estates and leased by the Society; it underwent a major renovation from 2001 to 2004 at the cost of £9.8 million, and was re-opened by the Prince of Wales on 7 July 2004.[9]

Carlton House Terrace underwent a series of renovations between 1999 and November 2003 to improve and standardise the property. New waiting, exhibition and reception rooms were created in the house at No.7, using the Magna Boschi marble found in No.8, and greenish grey Statuario Venato marble was used in other areas to standardise the design.[77] An effort was also made to make the layout of the buildings easier, consolidating all the offices on one floor, Fellows' Rooms on another and all the accommodation on a third.[79]

Chicheley Hall

In 2009 Chicheley Hall, a Grade I listed building located near Milton Keynes, was bought by the Royal Society for £6.5 million, funded in part by Fred Kavli. The Royal Society intends to spend a further £7 million on renovations, and adapting it to become the "Kavli Royal Society International Centre", a venue for science seminars and conferences which is due to open in June 2010.[80]


The Royal Society presents numerous awards, lectures and medals to recognise scientific achievement.[81] The oldest is the Croonian Lecture, created in 1701 at the request of the widow of William Croone, one of the founding members of the Royal Society. The Croonian Lecture is still awarded on an annual basis, and is considered the most important Royal Society prize for the biological sciences.[82] Although the Croonian Lecture was created in 1701 it was first awarded in 1738, seven years after the Copley Medal which is the oldest Royal Society medal still in use and is awarded for "outstanding achievements in research in any branch of science".[83]

See also


  1. ^ The German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina (Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina) lays claim to being the oldest continuously existing learned society, because the contemporary organization traces its roots back to the 1652 creation of what was called the Academia Naturae Curiosorum. However, the Royal Society was chartered by the crown in 1660, and the Leopoldina was not officially chartered until 1687.
  2. ^ Syfret (1948) p.75
  3. ^ Sprat (1722) p.56
  4. ^ a b Syfret (1948) p.78
  5. ^ Sprat (1722) p.57
  6. ^ "London Royal Society". University of St Andrews. Retrieved 8 December 2009. 
  7. ^ Syfret (1948) p.79
  8. ^ Syfret (1948) p.80
  9. ^ a b "Prince of Wales opens Royal Society’s refurbished building". The Royal Society. 7 July 2004. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  10. ^ Henderson (1941) p.28
  11. ^ a b Henderson (1941) p.29
  12. ^ Martin (1967) p.13
  13. ^ Hunter (1984) p.160
  14. ^ Hunter (1984) p.161
  15. ^ Hunter (1984) p.179
  16. ^ a b Henderson (1941) p.30
  17. ^ a b "Newton biography". University of St Andrews. Retrieved 28 December 2009. 
  18. ^ Lyons (April 1939) p.34
  19. ^ Martin (1967) p.14
  20. ^ Lyons (April 1939) p.35
  21. ^ Lyons (April 1939) p.38
  22. ^ Lyons (April 1939) p.40
  23. ^ Sorrenson (1996) p.29
  24. ^ Sorrenson (1996) p.31
  25. ^ Miller (1998) p.78
  26. ^ Miller (1998) p.79
  27. ^ Miller (1998) p.85
  28. ^ Martin (1967) p.16
  29. ^ a b c "Fellows - Fellowship - The Royal Society". The Royal Society. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  30. ^ Henderson (1941) p.31
  31. ^ Lyons (November 1939) p.92
  32. ^ Hall (1981) p.628
  33. ^ Martin (1967) p.17
  34. ^ Martin (1967) p.18
  35. ^ a b "Admission of Women into the Fellowship of the Royal Society". Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London (The Royal Society) 4 (1): 39. 1946. doi:10.1098/rsnr.1946.0006. 
  36. ^ Corbyn, Zoe (2006-11-28). "Michael Reiss: How to convert a generation". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-10-21. 
  37. ^ Press Release: "No change in Society's position on creationism," Royal Society. September 12, 2008.
  38. ^ "Call for Creationism in Science," BBC. September 13, 2008.
  39. ^ "Creationism' biologist quits job," BBC. September 16, 2008.
  40. ^ J.D.G.D. (1938) p.37
  41. ^ J.D.G.D. (1938) p.38
  42. ^ "’Nullius in verba’". The Royal Society. Retrieved 6 December 2009. 
  43. ^ "Research Fellows". The Royal Society. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  44. ^ "Funding". The Royal Society. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  45. ^ "Awards, medals and prize lectures". The Royal Society. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  46. ^ "Communication skills and Media training courses". The Royal Society. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  47. ^ "The Royal Society Enterprise Fund". The Royal Society Enterprise Fund. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  48. ^ Science Policy Centre - 2010 and beyond. The Royal Society. 2009. p. 3. 
  49. ^ Hall (1981) p.629
  50. ^ "Royal Society announces prestigious University Research Fellowships for 2009". The Royal Society. 12 November 2009. Retrieved 18 December 2009. 
  51. ^ "Royal Society Publishing". Royal Society Publishing. Retrieved 27 December 2009. 
  52. ^ "Philosophical Transactions A - About the journal". The Royal Society. Retrieved 11 December 2009. 
  53. ^ "Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B". The Royal Society. Retrieved 11 December 2009. 
  54. ^ "Proceedings A - about the journal". The Royal Society. Retrieved 11 December 2009. 
  55. ^ "Biology Letters - about this journal". The Royal Society. Retrieved 11 December 2009. 
  56. ^ "Journal of the Royal Society Interface - About". The Royal Society. Retrieved 11 December 2009. 
  57. ^ "About Notes and Records". The Royal Society. Retrieved 11 December 2009. 
  58. ^ "Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society". The Royal Society. Retrieved 11 December 2009. 
  59. ^ "Criteria for candidates - Criteria for candidates - The Royal Society". The Royal Society. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  60. ^ "The rights and responsibilities of Fellows of the Royal Society". The Royal Society. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  61. ^ "Royal Fellows". The Royal Society. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  62. ^ "Honorary Fellows". The Royal Society. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  63. ^ de Beer (1950) p.172
  64. ^ Lyons (1939) p.109
  65. ^ Lyons (1939) p.110
  66. ^ Lyons (1939) p.112
  67. ^ Lyons (1938) p.45
  68. ^ a b "How is the Society governed?". The Royal Society. Retrieved 6 December 2009. 
  69. ^ a b "The Council". The Royal Society. Retrieved 6 December 2009. 
  70. ^ Lyons (1940) p.115
  71. ^ a b c d e "Officers - How is the Society governed?". Royal Society. Retrieved 27 January 2010. 
  72. ^ "The role of President of the Royal Society". The Royal Society. Retrieved 6 December 2009. 
  73. ^ "The Presidency of the Royal Society of London". Science (American Association for the Advancement of Science) 6 (146): 442. 1885. doi:10.1126/science.ns-6.146.442. 
  74. ^ Robinson (1946) p.193
  75. ^ "Senior staff". The Royal Society. Retrieved 6 December 2009. 
  76. ^ "General". The Royal Society. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  77. ^ a b Fischer (2005) p.66
  78. ^ Summerson (1967) p.20
  79. ^ Fischer (2005) p.67
  80. ^ "Royal Society snaps up a stately hothouse", Times Online, March 29, 2009
  81. ^ "Awards, medals and prize lectures". The Royal Society. Retrieved 2009-02-09. 
  82. ^ "The Croonian Lecture (1738)". The Royal Society. Retrieved 2009-02-07. 
  83. ^ "The Copley Medal (1731)". The Royal Society. Retrieved 2009-02-04. 


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External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

THE ROYAL SOCIETY, the oldest scientific society in Great Britain, and one of the oldest in Europe. The Royal Society (more fully, The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge) is usually considered to have been founded in the year 1660, but a nucleus had in fact been in existence for some years before that date. As early as the year 1645 weekly meetings were held in London of "divers worthy persons, inquisitive into natural philosophy and other parts of human learning, and particularly of what hath been called the New Philosophy or Experimental Philosophy," and there can be little doubt that this gathering of philosophers is identical with the "Invisible College" of which Boyle speaks in sundry letters written in 1646 and 1647. These weekly meetings, according to Wallis, were first suggested by Theodore Haak, "a German of the Palatinate then resident in London," and they were held sometimes in Dr Goddard's lodgings in Wood Street, sometimes at the Bull-Head Tavern in Cheapside.

Some of these "Philosophers," resident in Oxford about 1648, formed an association there under the title of the Philosophical Society of Oxford, and used to meet, most usually in the rooms of Dr Wilkins, warden of Wadham College. A close intercommunication was maintained between the Oxford and London Philosophers; but ultimately the activity of the society was concentrated in the London meetings, which were held principally at Gresham College.

On November 28, 1660, the first journal book of the society was opened with a "memorandum," from which the following is an extract: "Memorandum that Novemb. 28.1660, These persons following, according to the usuall custom of most of them, mett together at Gresham Colledge to heare Mr Wren's lecture, viz. The Lord Brouncker, Mr Boyle, Mr Bruce, Sir Robert Moray, Sir Paul Neile, Dr Wilkins, Dr Goddard, Dr Petty, Mr Ball, Mr Rooke, Mr Wren, Mr Hill. And after the lecture was ended, they did, according to the usuall manner, withdrawe for mutuall converse. Where amongst other matters that were discoursed of, something was offered about a designe of founding a Colledge for the promoting of Physico-Mathematical) Experimental) Learning." It was agreed at this meeting that the company should continue to assemble on Wednesdays at three o'clock; an admission fee of ten shillings with a subscription of one shilling a week was instituted; Dr Wilkins was appointed chairman; and a list of forty-one persons judged likely and fit to join the design was drawn up. On the following Wednesday Sir Robert Moray brought word that the king (Charles II.) approved the design of the meetings; a form of obligation was framed, and was signed by all the persons enumerated in the memorandum of the 28th of November and by seventy-three others. On the 12th of December another meeting was held at which fifty-five was fixed as the number of the society, - persons of the degree of baron, Fellows of the College of Physicians, and public professors of mathematics, physics and natural philosophy of both universities being supernumeraries.

Gresham College was now appointed to be the regular meeting-place of the society. Sir Robert Moray (or Murray) was chosen president (March 6, 1661), and continued from time to time to occupy the chair until the incorporation of the society, when Lord Brouncker was appointed the first president under the charter. In October 1661 the king offered to be entered one of the society, and next year the society was incorporated under its present title. The name "Royal Society" appears to have been first applied to the Philosophers by John Evelyn, in the dedication of his translation of a book by Gabriel Naude, published in 1661. Evelyn received in that year the thanks of the "philosophic assembly" for the honourable mention he had made of them by the name of "The Royal Society." The charter of incorporation passed the Great Seal on the 15th of July 1662, to be modified, however, by a second charter in the following year, repeating the incorporating clauses of the first charter, but conferring further privileges on the society. The second charter passed the Great Seal on the 22nd of April 1663, and was followed in 1669 by a third, confirming the powers granted by the second charter, with some modifications of detail, and granting certain lands in Chelsea to the society. The council of the Royal Society met for the first time on the 13th of May 1663, when resolutions were passed that debate concerning those to be admitted should be secret, and that Fellows should pay 1s. a week to defray expenses.

At this early stage of its history the "correspondence" which was actively maintained with continental philosophers formed an important part of the society's labours, and selections from this correspondence furnished the beginnings of the Philosophical Transactions (a publication now of world-wide celebrity). At first the publication of the Transactions was entirely "the act of the respective secretaries." The first number, consisting of 16 quarto pages, appeared on Monday, March 6, 1664-65, under the title of Philosophical Transactions: giving some Accompt of the present undertakings, studies and labours of the Ingenious in many considerable parts of the world, with a dedication to the Royal Society signed by Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the society. It was ordered (1st of March 1664-65) "that the tract be licensed by the Council of the Society being first reviewed by some of the members of the same." In 1750, 496 numbers, or 46 volumes, had been published. After this date the work was issued under the superintendence of a committee, and the division into numbers disappeared. The society also from its earliest years published, or directed the publication of, separate treatises and books on matters of philosophy; most notable among these being the Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica Autore Is. Newton. Imprimatur: S. Pepys, Reg. Soc. Praeses. Julii 5, 1686, 4to Londini 1687. In 1887 the Philosophical Transactions was divided into two series, labelled A and B respectively, the former containing papers of a mathematical or physical character, and the latter papers of a biological character. More than 225 quarto volumes have been published. In 1832 appeared the first volume of Abstracts of papers printed in the Philosophical Transactions from the year 1800. This publication developed in the course of a few years into the Proceedings of the Royal Society, which has been continued up to the present time. It is published now in two series, corresponding to the two series of the Philosophical Transactions, and is issued in 8vo form at the rate of about three volumes a year.

It is, however, certain that one of the most important functions of the society from the beginning was the performance of experiments before the members. In the royal warrant of 1663 ordering the mace which the king presented to the society, it is described as "The Royal Society for the improving of Natural Knowledge by experiments"; and during its earlier years the time of the meetings was principally occupied by the performance and discussion of experiments. The society early exercised the power granted by charter to appoint two "curators of experiments," the first holder of that office being Robert Hooke, who was afterwards elected a secretary of the society.

Another matter to which the society gave attention was the formation of a museum, the nucleus being "the collection of rarities formerly belonging to Mr Hubbard," which, by a resolution of council passed on the 21st of February 1666, was purchased for the sum of loo. This museum, at one time the most famous in London, was presented to the trustees of the British Museum in 1781, upon the removal of the society to Somerset House. A certain number, however, of instruments and models of historical interest have remained in the possession of the society, and some of them, more peculiarly associated with its earlier years, are still preserved at Burlington House. The remainder have been deposited in the Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington.

After the Great Fire of London in September 1666 the apartments of the Royal Society in Gresham College were required for the use of the city authorities, and the society were therefore invited by Henry Howard of Norfolk to meet in Arundel House. At the same time he presented them with the library purchased by his grandfather, Thomas earl of Arundel, and thus the foundation was laid of the important collection of scientific works, now exceeding 60,000 volumes, which the society possesses. Of the Arundel MSS. the bulk was sold to the trustees of the British Museum in 1830 for the sum of (3559, the proceeds being devoted to the p urchase of scientific books. These MSS. are still kept in the British Museum as a separate collection. The society, however, still possesses a valuable collection of scientific correspondence, official records, and other manuscripts, including the original manuscript, with Newton's autograph corrections, from which the first edition of the Principia was printed, and many other original documents of great interest.

Under date December 21, 1671, the journal-book records that "the lord bishop of Sarum proposed for candidate Mr Isaac Newton, professor of the mathematicks at Cambridge." Newton was elected a Fellow January 11, 1671-72, and in 1703 he was appointed president, a post which he held till his death in 1727. During his presidency the society moved to Crane Court, their first meeting in the new quarters being held November 8, 1710. In the same year they were appointed visitors and directors of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich,. a function which they continued to perform until the accession of William IV., when by the new warrant then issued the president and six of the Fellows of the Royal Astronomical Society were added to the list of visitors.

In 1780, under the presidency of Sir Joseph Banks, the Royal Society removed from Crane Court to the apartments assigned to them by the government in the new Somerset House, where they remained until they removed to Burlington House in 1857. The policy of Sir Joseph Banks was to render the Fellowship more difficult of attainment than it had been; and the measures which he took for this purpose, combined with other circumstances, led to the rise of a faction headed by Dr Horsley. Throughout the years 1783 and 1784 feeling ran exceedingly high, but in the end the president was supported by the majority of the society. An account of the controversy will be found in a tract entitled An Authentic Narrative of theDissensions and Debates in the Royal Society. An important. step in pursuance of the same policy was taken in the year 1847, when the number of candidates recommended for election by the council was limited to fifteen, and the election was made annual. This limitation has remained in force up to the present time. Concurrent with the gradual restriction of the Fellowship was the successive establishment of other scientific bodies. The founding of the I.innean Society in 1788 under the auspices of several Fellows of the Royal Society was the first instance of the establishment of a distinct scientific association under royal charter; and this has been followed by the formation of the large number of societies now active in the promotion of special branches of science.

From the time of its royal founder onwards the Royal Society has constantly been appealed to by the government for advice in connexion with scientific undertakings of national importance. The following are some of the principal matters of this character upon which the society has been consulted by, or which it has successfully urged upon the attention of, the government: the improvement and equipment of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, in 1710, when it was placed in the sole charge of the society; the change of the calendar in 1752; ventilation of prisons; protection of buildings and ships from lightning; measurement of a degree of latitude; determination of the length of a pendulum vibrating seconds; comparison of the British and French standards of length; the Geodetic Survey in 1784, and the General Trigonometrical Survey begun in 1791; expeditions to observe the transits of Venus in 1761, 1769 (commanded by Captain Cook), 1877 and 1882; the Antarctic expeditions of 1772 (under Captain Cook, whose voyage extended to the circumnavigation of the globe), of 1839 (under Ross), and 190o; observations for determining the density of the earth; Arctic expeditions of 1817 (in search of the North-West Passage), of 1819 (under Parry), of 1827 (Parry and Ross), of 1845 (Franklin); of 1874 (under Nares); numerous expeditions for observing eclipses of the sun; 1822, use of coal-tar in vessels of war; best manner of measuring tonnage of ships; 1823, corrosion of copper sheathing by sea-water; Babbage's calculating machine; lightning-conductors for vessels of war; 1825, supervision of gas-works; 1832, tidal observations; 1835, instruments and tables for testing the strength of spirits; magnetic observatories in the colonies; 1862, the great Melbourne telegraph; 1865, pendulum observations in India; 1866, reorganization of the meteorological department; 1868, deepsea research; 1872, "Challenger" expedition; 1879, prevention of accidents in mines; 1881, pendulum observations; cruise of the "Triton" in Faroe Channel; 1883, borings in delta of Nile; 1884, Bureau des Poids et Mesures; international conference on a prime meridian; 1888,1888, inquiry into lighthouse illuminants; 1890, the investigation of colour-blindness; 1895, examination of the structure of a coral reef by boring; 1896, inquiry into cylinders for compressed gases; the establishment of an International Geodetic Bureau; 1897, determination of the relations between the metric and imperial units of weights and measures; and, more recently, an inquiry into the volcanic eruptions in the West Indies; international seismological investigation; international exploration of the upper atmosphere; measurement of an arc of the meridian across Africa. In recent years also the society, acting at the request of the government, has taken the leading part in investigations, in the course of which important discoveries have been made, in relation to various tropical diseases, beginning with the tsetse-fly disease of cattle in Africa, followed by investigations into malaria, Mediterranean fever and sleeping sickness. The society has standing committees which advise the Indian government on matters connected with scientific inquiry in India and on the observatories of India. The society has taken a leading part in the promotion of the International Catalogue of Scientific Literature from 1900, and of the International Association of Academies, which is composed of all the principal scientific academies of the world, meeting regularly to promote international action in questions of scientific interest.

In addition to the occasional services enumerated above, the Royal Society has exercised, and still exercises, a variety of important public functions of a more permanent nature. It still provides seven of the board of visitors of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. From 1877 until the reconstitution of the Meteorological Office in 1906 the society nominated the meteorological council, which had the control of that office. The society has the custody, of standard copies of the imperial standard yard and pound. The president and council have the control of the National Physical Laboratory, an institution established in 1899 in pursuance of the recommendations of a treasury committee appointed by H.M. government in response to representations from the Royal Society. The society had previously for many years had control of the Kew Observatory, now incorporated with the National Physical Laboratory, and still remains trustee of the Gassiot Fund, a fund established for the maintenance of the observatory. The society elects four of the nine members of the managing committee of the Lawes Agricultural Trust, and is officially represented on the governing bodies of a number of important scientific and educational institutions and of the principal public schools.

One of the most important duties which the Royal Society performs on behalf of the government is the administration of the annual grant of £4000 for the promotion of scientific research. This grant originated in a proposal by Lord John Russell in 1849 that at the close of the year the president and council should point out to the first lord of the treasury a limited number of persons to whom the grant of a reward or of a sum to defray the cost of experiments might be of essential service. This grant of £l000 afterwards became annual, and was continued until 1876. In that year an additional sum of £4000 for similar purposes was granted, and the two funds of £1000 and £400o were administered concurrently until 1881, in which year the two were combined in a single annual grant of £400o under new regulations. Since 1896 parliament has also voted annually a grant of £1000 to be administered by the Royal Society in aid of scientific publications, not only those issued by itself, but also scientific matter published through other channels. One of the most useful of the society's publications is the great catalogue of scientific papers - an index now in twelve quarto volumes, under authors' names, of all the memoirs of importance in the chief English and foreign scientific serials from the year 1800 to the year 1883. The work was prepared under the direction of the Royal Society. A continuation carrying the catalogue up to the end of the 19th century, and a subject index to the whole catalogue, have also been compiled.

A statement of the trust funds administered by the Royal Society will be found in the Year Book published annually, and the origin and history of these funds will be found in the Record of the Royal Society (2nd ed. 1901). The income of the society is derived from the annual contributions and composition fees of the Fellows, from rents and from interest on various investments. The balancesheet and an account of the estates and property are published in the Year Book. Five medals (the Copley, two Royal, the Davy and the Hughes) are awarded by the society every year; the Rumford and the Darwin medals biennially, the Sylvester triennially and the Buchanan quinquennially. The first of these originated in a bequest by Sir Godfrey Copley (1709), and is awarded "to the living author of such philosophical research, either published or communicated to the society, as may appear to the council to be deserving of that honour"; the author may be an Englishman or a foreigner. The Rumford medal originated in a gift from Count Rumford in 1796 of £l000 3% consols, for the most important discoveries in heat or light made during the preceding two years. The Royal medals were instituted by George IV., and are awarded annually for the two most important contributions to science published in the British dominions not more than ten years nor less than one year from the date of the award. The Davy medal was founded by the will of Mr John Davy, F.R.S., the brother of Sir Humphry Davy, and is given annually for the most important discovery in chemistry made in Europe or Anglo-America. An enumeration of the awards of each of the medals and the conditions of the awards are published in the Year Book. The society also has the award of three research studentships, one founded in 1890 in memory of J. P. Joule, and the others created out of a bequest to the society by Sir William Mackinnon in 1897.

Under the existing statutes of the Royal Society every candidate for election into the society must be recommended by a certificate in writing signed by six or more Fellows, of whom three at least must sign from personal knowledge. From the candidates so recommended the council annually select fifteen by ballot, and the names so selected are submitted to the society for election by ballot. Princes of the blood, however, and not more than two persons selected by the council on special grounds once in two years, may be elected by a more summary procedure. Foreign members, not exceeding fifty, may be selected by the council from among men of the greatest scientific eminence abroad, and proposed to the society for election. Every Fellow of the society is liable to an admission fee of £10 and an annual payment of £4; but, by aid of a fund established in 1878 for the purpose, the admission fees and £1 of the annual contribution of all the Fellows elected since that date have been remitted. The composition for annual payments is £60. The anniversary meeting for the election of the council and officers is held on St Andrew's Day. The council for the ensuing year, out of which are chosen the president, treasurer, principal secretaries, and foreign secretary, must consist of eleven members of the existing council and ten Fellows who are not members of the existing council. These are nominated by the president and council previously to the anniversary meeting. The session of the society is from November to June; the ordinary meetings are held on Thursdays during the session, at 4.30 p.m. The selection for publication from the papers read before the society is made by the "Committee of Papers," which consists of the members of the council for the time being aided by committees appointed for the purpose. The papers so selected are published either in the Philosophical Transactions (4to) or the Proceedings of the Royal Society (8vo), and one copy of each of these publications is presented gratis to every Fellow of the society and to the chief scientific societies throughout the world.

The making and repealing of laws is vested in the council, and in every case the question must be put to the vote on two several days of their meeting.

The text of the charters of the Royal Society is given in the Record, and in the same work will be found lists of the presidents, treasurers, secretaries and assistant-secretaries from the foundation to the year 1900. The same work gives a chronological list of all the Fellows, with dates of election, and an alphabetical index. Other histories are Thomson's History of the Royal Society (1812); Weld's History of the Royal Society; Bishop Sprat's (1667), which consists largely of a defence of the society against the attacks of a priori philosophers; and Dr Birch's (1756), which treats mainly of the society's scientific work. (R. W. F H.)

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