The Royal Society

English learned society for science
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The Royal Society is a society for science and scientists.[1] It was founded in 1660 by Charles II. It is the oldest society of its kind still in existence.

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



A Royal Charter, on 15 July 1662, created "The Royal Society of London".

Lord Brouncker was the first President, and Robert Hooke was Curator of Experiments. The reigning monarch has always been the patron of the Royal Society since its foundation.[2]

The motto of the Royal Society is Nullius in Verba (Latin: nothing in words).[3][4][5] This shows the Society's commitment to establishing scientific truth through experiment rather than by quoting authority.

Although this seems obvious today, the philosophical basis of the Royal Society differed from previous philosophies such as scholasticism, which established scientific truth based on deductive logic, concordance with divine providence and the citation of such ancient authorities as Aristotle.



The members of the society are called Fellows of the Royal Society, and put the letters FRS after their names. There are usually about 1600 of them. They are elected by existing Fellows. All other posts, such as the Secretary and President, are also by election.

A selected list of presidents

Mace of the Royal Society, granted by Charles II.

Data from Royal Society website.[6]

Permanent staff


The Society's 15 Sections are administered by the permanent staff, led by the Executive Secretary, Stephen Cox CVO. The Executive Secretary is supported by the Senior Managers of the Society, including:

  • Mr Ian Cooper, Director of Finance and Operations
  • Dr Peter Collins, Director of Science Policy
  • Dr Peter Cotgreave, Director of Communications

Society honours


The Society bestows ten medals, seven awards (prizes) and nine prize lectureships variously annually, biennially or triennially, according to the terms of reference for each award. The Society also runs The Aventis Prizes for Science Books.




  • Buchanan Medal (for achievements in medicine)
  • Copley Medal (for work in any field of science)
  • Darwin Medal (for work in the broad area of biology in which Charles Darwin worked)
  • Davy Medal (for work in any branch of chemistry)
  • Gabor Medal (for work in biology, especially in genetic engineering and molecular biology)
  • Hughes Medal (for work in the physical sciences, particularly electricity and magnetism)
  • Leverhulme Medal (for work in pure or applied chemistry or engineering)
  • Royal Medal (for the two most important contributions to the advancement of Natural Knowledge)
  • Rumford Medal (for work in the fields of heat or light)
  • Sylvester Medal (for the encouragement of mathematical research)

Prize lectures

The coat-of-arms of the Royal Society as a stained-glass window. The motto is 'Nullius in verba'.


  • 1640s — informal meetings
  • 28 November 1660 — Royal Society founded at Gresham College
  • 1661 — name first appears in print, and library presented with its first book
  • 1662 — first Royal Charter gives permission to publish
  • 1663 — second Royal Charter
  • 1665 — first issue of Philosophical Transactions
  • 1666 — Fire of London causes move to Arundel House until 1673, then returns to Gresham College[7]
  • 1669 — third Royal Charter; original proposal would have made Chelsea College the permanent home of the Society, but the site became Chelsea Hospital instead
  • 1710 — gets its own home in Crane Court
  • 1780 — moves to premises at Somerset House provided by the Crown[8]
  • 1847 — changed election criteria so that Fellows would be elected solely on the merit of their scientific work
  • 1850 — Parliamentary Grant-in-aid commences, of £1,000, to assist scientists in their research and to buy equipment.
  • 1857 — moved to Burlington House in Piccadilly
  • 1967 — moved to present location on Carlton House Terrace


  • Purver, Margery & Bowen E.J. (1960). The Beginning of the Royal Society. Oxford: Clarendon Press. OCLC 9381245.
  • Gleick, James (2004). Isaac Newton. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 1400032954. OCLC 55696750.
  • Hartley, Harold, ed. (1960). The Royal Society: Its Origins and Founders. London: Royal Society. OCLC 813245.
  • Rousseau, George (1981). The Letters and Private Papers of Sir John Hill, 17141775. New York: AMS Press. ISBN 0404614728. OCLC 8111658.
  • Sprat, Thomas & Cowley, Abraham (2003) [1667]. The history of the RoyalSociety of London for the improving of natural knowledge. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 0766128679. OCLC 63174140.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Lomas, Robert (2002). Freemasonry and the Birth of Modern Science. Gloucester, Mass.: Fair Winds Press. ISBN 1592330118. OCLC 52158257.
  • "Homes of the Royal Society". The Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2007-11-11. Retrieved 2008-07-29.


  1. Full title: The Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge.
  2. "Prince of Wales opens Royal Society's refurbished building". The Royal Society. 2004-07-07. Retrieved 2008-07-10. Her Majesty The Queen is the current patron, and the reigning monarch has always been the patron of the Royal Society since its foundation.
  3. The full quote from Horace - "Nullius addictus judicare in verba magistri" - expands into the gold standard of objectivity: "Not compelled to swear to any master's words".
  4. "'Nullius in verba'". The Royal Society. Retrieved 2008-07-10.
  5. "The world's problem". Times Online. 2007-04-04. Retrieved 2008-07-10.
  6. The Royal Society website
  7. "Homes of the Society - Gresham College and Arundel House (1660-1710)". The Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2008-06-09. Retrieved 2008-07-10.
  8. "Brief history of the Society". The Royal Society. Retrieved 2008-07-10.

Other websites