Royal Society Founded
The Royal Society (full name The Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge) was founded just after the Restoration of Charles II to the throne. It was a time of change, the Puritan dictatorship replaced by a monarch who, when not busy womanising, was interested in ideas and their potential. Charles gave the society a royal charter in July 1662, enhancing its standing and perhaps insuring it against any future backlash by the religious and the traditionalists.
It was also a time when by chance or circumstances great figures in the history of science and the application of science were emerging in Britain: Christopher Wren , Robert Boyle, John Evelyn and Robert Hooke among them. A "secret college" of the scientifically minded had it seemed existed for more than a decade before it came into the open. The society's motto, "Nullius in verba", variously translated as "Nothing in words", or "On the word of none" among other versions, sets the tone for the organisation: it was and is a way of promoting scientific experiment and thought, rather than referring to ancient sources and deductive logic.
The original society, which can be dated from a meeting of 12 members at Gresham College in Bishopsgate on November 28 1660, was composed of gentlemen amateurs as well as practising scientists, partly because the social order dictated that the nobility not be excluded, partly for the very practical reason that such wealthy men might become patrons of their academic colleagues. Over the years this changed, until in the 1820s Humphry Davy moved it away from the dilettante element.
FRS - Fellow of the Royal Society - is still one of the great badges of scientific authority in the UK and the Commonwealth, the society being regarded as the oldest such body in the world, setting a standard still for science, engineering and technology over superstition and received wisdom.
More famous dates here
5021 views since 28th February 2007
On this day: