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Royal Society: 250th Anniversary of its Incorporation

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0117 MS 552
Held at: Royal Society
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at https://royalsociety.org/collections/ ›
Full title: Royal Society: 250th Anniversary of its Incorporation
Date(s): 1912
Level of description: Sub-fonds
Extent: Unknown
Name of creator(s): Royal Society
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue

Context

Administrative/Biographical history:

The origins of the Royal Society lie in an "invisible college" of natural philosophers who began meeting in the mid-1640s to discuss the ideas of Francis Bacon. Its official foundation date is 28 November 1660, when 12 of them met at Gresham College after a lecture by Christopher Wren, the Gresham Professor of Astronomy, and decided to found 'a Colledge for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematicall Experimentall Learning'. This group included Wren himself, Robert Boyle, John Wilkins, Sir Robert Moray, and William, Viscount Brouncker. The Society was to meet weekly to witness experiments and discuss what we would now call scientific topics. The first Curator of Experiments was Robert Hooke. It was Moray who first told the King, Charles II, of this venture and secured his approval and encouragement. At first apparently nameless, the name The Royal Society first appears in print in 1661, and in the second Royal Charter of 1663 the Society is referred to as 'The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge'. The Society found accommodation at Gresham College and rapidly began to acquire a library (the first book was presented in 1661) and a repository or museum of specimens of scientific interest. After the Fire of 1666 it moved for some years to Arundel House, London home of the Dukes of Norfolk. It was not until 1710, under the Presidency of Isaac Newton, that the Society acquired its own home, two houses in Crane Court, off the Strand. In 1662 the Society was permitted by Royal Charter to publish and the first two books it produced were John Evelyn's Sylva and Micrographia by Robert Hooke. In 1665, the first issue of Philosophical Transactions was edited by Henry Oldenburg, the Society's Secretary. The Society took over publication some years later and Philosophical Transactions is now the oldest scientific journal in continuous publication. From the beginning, Fellows of the Society had to be elected, although the criteria for election were vague and the vast majority of the Fellowship were not professional scientists. In 1731 a new rule established that each candidate for election had to be proposed in writing and this written certificate signed by those who supported his candidature. These certificates survive and give a glimpse of both the reasons why Fellows were elected and the contacts between Fellows. The Society moved again in 1780 to premises at Somerset House provided by the Crown, an arrangement made by Sir Joseph Banks who had become President in 1778 and was to remain so until his death in 1820. Banks was in favour of maintaining a mixture among the Fellowship of working scientists and wealthy amateurs who might become their patrons. This view grew less popular in the first half of the 19th century and in 1847 the Society decided that in future Fellows would be elected solely on the merit of their scientific work. This new professional approach meant that the Society was no longer just a learned society but also de facto an academy of scientists. The Government recognised this in 1850 by giving a grant to the Society of 1,000 to assist scientists in their research and to buy equipment. Therefore a Government Grant system was established and a close relationship began, which nonetheless still allowed the Society to maintain its autonomy, essential for scientific research. In 1857 the Society moved once more, to Burlington House in Piccadilly, with its staff of two. Over the next century the work and staff of the Society grew rapidly and soon outgrew this site. Therefore in 1967 the Society moved again to its present location on Carlton House Terrace with a staff which has now grown to over 120, all working to further the Royal Society's roles as independent scientific academy, learned society and funding body.

Content

Scope and content/abstract:

Papers relating to the 250th Anniversary of the Incorporation of the Royal Society consisting of two separately bound addresses from the University of Paris and the University of Parma, a box of addresses from Europe other than the United Kingdom, Japan, USA, and the British Empire; a box of addresses from the United Kingdom; and a box of other miscellaneous papers.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English

System of arrangement:

As set out above in Scope and Content.

Conditions governing access:

Open

Conditions governing reproduction:

No publication without written permission. Apply to Archivist in the first instance.

Finding aids:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Allied Materials

Related material:


Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Copied from the Royal Society catalogue by Sarah Drewery.

Rules or conventions:
General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Feb 2009.

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