the royal society of london for improving natural knowledge


  • Formation: 28 November 1660; 362 years ago; Headquarters: London, SW1 United Kingdom; Coordinates: 51°30′22″N 00°07′56″W; Membership: ~ 1600 Fellows, ~ 140 Foreign Members,
    6 Royal Fellows; Patron: Charles III; President: Sir Adrian Smith; Foreign: Sir Robin William Grimes; Treasurer: Sir Andrew Hopper; Main organ: Council; Staff: ~225; Remarks: Motto: Nullius in verba, (“Take nobody’s word for it”) History Founding
    and early years[edit] Further information: Gresham College and the formation of the Royal Society The Invisible College has been described as a precursor group to the Royal Society of London, consisting of a number of natural philosophers
    around Robert Boyle.

  • 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.

  • 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,[23] and editions of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society were appearing regularly.

  • 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.

  • [10] Another 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.

  • [citation needed] 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.

  • [35] This had a number of effects on the Society: first, the Society’s membership became almost entirely scientific, with few political Fellows or patrons.

  • On 28 November 1660, which is considered the official foundation date of the Royal Society, a meeting at Gresham College of 12 natural philosophers decided to commence a “Colledge
    for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematicall Experimentall Learning”.

  • Eight are elected each year by the society and also hold their membership for life.

  • 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.

  • In the second half, it became customary for His 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 property was offered to the society by His Majesty’s Government and, as soon as Sir Joseph Banks became president in November 1778, he began planning the move.

  • The first proposal was given by John Evelyn to Robert Boyle in a letter dated 3 September 1659; he suggested a grander scheme, with apartments for members and a central research

  • 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.

  • [29] 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.

  • 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 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.

  • [57] Honorary fellows are people who are ineligible to be elected as 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”.

  • 21st century[edit] To show support for vaccines against COVID-19, the Royal Society under the guidance of both Nobel prize-winner Venki Ramakrishnan and Sir Adrian Frederick
    Melhuish Smith added its power to shape public discourse and proposed “legislation and punishment of those who produced and disseminated false information” about the experimental medical interventions.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • [19] Henry Oldenburg and Thomas Sprat put forward plans 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”.

  • [47][48][49] Cartwright was also the first woman to serve on the Council of the Royal Society.

  • 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, the term
    is five years.

  • 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.

  • Council[edit] The council is a body consisting of 20 to 24 Fellows,[65] including the officers (the president, the treasurer, two secretaries—one from the physical sciences,
    one from life sciences—and the foreign secretary),[66] one fellow to represent each sectional committee and seven other fellows.

  • [80] Since the middle of the 18th century, government problems involving science were irregularly referred to the Society, and by 1800 it was done regularly.

  • 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.

  • 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 individual they saw fit.

  • Royal fellows are those members of the British Royal Family, representing the British monarchy’s role in promoting and supporting the society, who are recommended by the society’s
    council and elected via postal vote.

  • [citation needed] This initial royal favour has continued and, since then, every monarch has been the patron of the society.

  • [68] The council may establish (and is assisted by) a variety of committees,[68] which can include not only fellows but also outside scientists.

  • There are also royal fellows, honorary fellows and foreign members, the last of which are allowed to use the postnominal title ForMemRS (Foreign Member of the Royal Society).

  • [23] In 1705, the society was informed that it could no longer rent Gresham College and began a search for new premises.

  • [62] 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • [67] 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.

  • Because of the difficulty of co-ordinating 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.

  • Foreign members are permitted to use the post-nominal ForMemRS (Foreign Member of the Royal Society) and as of August 2020 number about 185.

  • 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.

  • [12] 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.

  • 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

  • [82] 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 Director and Fellows.

  • [9] A group known as “Philosophical Society of Oxford” was run under a set of rules still retained by the Bodleian Library.

  • 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.

  • The Royal Society started from groups of physicians and natural philosophers, meeting at a variety of locations, including Gresham College in London.

  • [60] 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.

  • Founded on 28 November 1660, it was granted a royal charter by King Charles II as The Royal Society and is the oldest continuously existing scientific academy in the world.

  • The Royal Society President is Adrian Smith, who took up the post and started his 5 year term on 30 November 2020,[3] replacing the previous president Venki Ramakrishnan.

  • [73] Permanent staff[edit] The society is assisted by a number of full-time paid staff.

  • [17] Although meeting at Gresham College, the Society temporarily moved 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.

  • [54] Fellows of the Royal Society (FRS) 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”.

  • [34] 19th century[edit] 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.

  • [11] It is widely held that these groups were the inspiration for the foundation of the Royal Society.

  • [42] 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.

  • As of 2020, there are about 1,700 fellows, allowed to use the postnominal title FRS (Fellow of the Royal Society), with up to 52 new fellows appointed each year.

  • [14] 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.

  • 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.

  • This saw the appointment of 94 fellows on 20 May and 4 on 22 June; these 98 are known as the “Original Fellows”.

  • The Royal Society, formally The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge,[1] is a learned society and the United Kingdom’s national academy of sciences.

  • [55] Fellows are elected for life and gain the right to use the postnominal Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS).

  • It publishes several reports a year, and serves as the Academy of Sciences of the United Kingdom.

  • [86] The Royal Society spent several million on renovations adapting it to become the Kavli Royal Society International Centre, a venue for residential science seminars.

  • Lord Hardwicke, leader of the “Hardwicke Circle” that dominated society politics during the 1750s and ’60s During the 18th century, the gusto that 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.

  • [32] 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.

  • [61] 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.

  • Newton was one of the earliest Fellows of the Royal Society, elected in 1672.

  • [79] Through its Science Policy Centre, the society acts as an advisor to the UK Government, the European Commission and the United Nations on matters of science.

  • [30] 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

  • In August 1866, the government announced their intention to refurbish Burlington House and move the Royal Academy and other societies there.


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