Royal Society

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Royal Society,

oldest scientific organization in Great Britain and one of the oldest in Europe. It was founded in 1660 by a group of learned men in London who met to promote scientific discussion, particularly in the physical sciences. The Royal Society was first chartered in 1662; in its second charter (1663) it was called the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge. It stimulates research in that field and acts in the capacity of adviser on scientific matters to the government, from which it receives annual subsidies. The Royal Society ranks as the foremost organization of its kind; its membership always includes leading scientists of the world. One of its activities is the publication of its Proceedings and The Philosophical Transactions. Among those who served as president of the Royal Society are Samuel PepysPepys, Samuel
, 1633–1703, English public official, and celebrated diarist, b. London, grad. Magdalene College, Cambridge, 1653. In 1656 he entered the service of a relative, Sir Edward Montagu (later earl of Sandwich), whose secretary he became in 1660.
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, Sir Isaac NewtonNewton, Sir Isaac,
1642–1727, English mathematician and natural philosopher (physicist), who is considered by many the greatest scientist that ever lived. Early Life and Work
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, Sir Joseph BanksBanks, Sir Joseph,
1743–1820, British naturalist and patron of the sciences. He accompanied Capt. James Cook on his voyage around the world and made large collections of biological specimens, most of which were previously unclassified. Botany Bay was named on this voyage.
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, Sir Humphry DavyDavy, Sir Humphry,
1778–1829, English chemist and physicist. The son of a woodcarver, he received his early education at Truro and was apprenticed (1795) to a surgeon-apothecary at Penzance.
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, Sir William HugginsHuggins, Sir William,
1824–1910, English astronomer. Using a spectroscope, he began to study the chemical constitution of stars from the observatory attached to his home in Tulse Hill, London.
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, Lord RayleighRayleigh, John William Strutt, 3d Baron
, 1842–1919, English physicist. He was professor at Cambridge (1879–84) and at the Royal Institution (1887–1905), and chancellor of Cambridge from 1908.
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, Sir Archibald GeikieGeikie, Sir Archibald
, 1835–1924, British geologist, educated at the Univ. of Edinburgh. He joined the Geological Survey of Scotland, becoming its director in 1867. He was professor of geology at the Univ.
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, Sir William CrookesCrookes, Sir William,
1832–1919, English chemist and physicist. After serving at the Radcliffe Observatory, Oxford, and teaching chemistry at Chester Training College, he retired to work in his own laboratory in London.
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, Sir Joseph John ThomsonThomson, Sir Joseph John,
1856–1940, English physicist. From 1884 to 1919 he was Cavendish professor of experimental physics at Cambridge. J. J. Thomson was one of the founders of modern physics.
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, Sir Charles SherringtonSherrington, Sir Charles Scott,
1857–1952, English neurophysiologist, educated at Cambridge. He was professor of physiology at the universities of Liverpool and London and at Oxford.
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, Lord RutherfordRutherford, Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron,
1871–1937, British physicist, b. New Zealand. Rutherford left New Zealand in 1895, having earned three degrees from the Univ.
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, Sir Frederick Gowland HopkinsHopkins, Sir Frederick Gowland,
1861–1947, English biochemist, educated at Cambridge and the Univ. of London. He was professor of biochemistry at Cambridge (1914–43).
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, Sir William Henry BraggBragg, Sir William Henry,
1862–1942, English physicist, educated at King William's College, Isle of Man, and Trinity College, Cambridge. He served on the faculties of the Univ. of Adelaide in Australia (1886–1908), the Univ. of Leeds (1909–15), and the Univ.
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, Lord AdrianAdrian, Edgar Douglas Adrian, Baron,
1889–1977, English physiologist, M.D. Trinity College, Cambridge, 1915. He was research professor (1929–37) of the Royal Society and professor of physiology (1937–51) at Cambridge. In 1951 he became master of Trinity College.
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, Lord FloreyFlorey, Howard Walter Florey, Baron,
1898–1968, British pathologist, b. Australia. He was educated at Adelaide Univ. and at Cambridge and Oxford and returned to Oxford as professor of pathology in 1935.
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, Sir Alan Lloyd HodgkinHodgkin, Sir Alan Lloyd,
1914–98, English biophysicist. For their work in analyzing the electrical and chemical events in nerve-cell discharge, he and Andrew Huxley shared with Sir John Eccles the 1963 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.
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, Sir Andrew Fielding HuxleyHuxley, Sir Andrew Fielding,
1917–2012, British physiologist, educated at University College, London; grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley, half-brother of Sir Julian Huxley and Aldous Huxley.
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, and Sir Paul NurseNurse, Sir Paul Maxime,
1949–, British biochemist, Ph.D. Univ. of East Anglia, 1973. Nurse was associated with the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (now Cancer Research UK London Research Institute) for two periods in his career (1984–88 and 1993–2003), becoming
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See T. Sprat, History of the Royal Society (1667, ed. by J. I. Cope and H. W. Jones, 1959); Sir Harold Hartley, ed., Royal Society: Its Origins and Founders (1960); M. Hunter, Establishing the New Science: The Experience of the Early Royal Society (1989).

Royal Society


the name of the leading scholarly and scientific center, often fulfilling the functions of an academy of science, in a number of countries, including Australia, Great Britain, Denmark, Canada, New Zealand, and the Republic of South Africa. The oldest royal society is the Royal Society of London.

Royal Society


(full name, Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge), the leading scientific society of Great Britain. Founded in 1660; incorporated by Royal Charter in 1662. It is a self-administering private organization. Although it is not formally associated with government scientific institutions, it plays an important role in the organization and development of research in Great Britain and acts as a consultative body in the resolution of fundamental questions of science policy. It functions as a national academy of sciences in international nongovernmental scientific associations.

As distinguished from the national academies of sciences of other countries, the Royal Society does not have its own scientific research base (with the exception of archives, the scientific research station on the atoll of Aldabra in the Indian Ocean, and the property of geographic and biological expeditions, which it equips in various regions of the world). The society influences the development of national science through its own members, who work in research centers. Practical scientific and organizational activities of the society are implemented through committees and commissions established by its council, which is also the supreme body of the society.

The Royal Society has traditionally oriented its activity toward fundamental research in the natural sciences. In the early 1960’s the society began to strengthen its links with industry and humanitarian institutions. Increasing numbers of representatives of the technical sciences were admitted as fellows of the society. It became engaged in studies of the English system of education and methods of improving it and established a committee on research in industry, as well as commissions for the coordination of the work of English scientists and specialists in medical instrument-making, nonverbal means of communication, pollution of the marine environment, and planetology. Contacts with the national academies of sciences of other countries, including most of the academies of the socialist countries, have been expanded.

As of 1976, the Royal Society had more than 790 national fellows and 79 foreign fellows. Among the national fellows there are 20 Nobel Prize laureates. Foreign membership consists of representatives of 13 countries, including the USSR (V. A. Ambartsumian, I. M. Vinogradov, A. N. Kolmogorov, A. N. Nesmeianov, and N. N. Semenov). Several foreigners are also national fellows, among them the Soviet academician P. L. Kapitsa.

The work of the Royal Society is financed through subsidies from Parliament (about £500,000 per year), earnings from the sale of scientific publications, and annual membership dues. The society publishes the journals Philosophical Transactions (since 1665) and Proceedings of the Royal Society (since 1800). Each journal consists of two series, A (physical and mathematical sciences) and B (biological sciences).

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