350 years of the Royal Society
This year the Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge is celebrating its 350th anniversary. The society, usually referred to simply as the Royal Society, was charted in 1660 by Charles II (as the Royal Society of London), who essentially incorporated the so-called Invisible College, a group of natural philosophers who were inspired by Francis Bacon’s New Science. (And you thought that Henry Purcell was the only good to come out of the Restoration!) The Royal Society maintains lists of the 8,000 or so past and new fellows. The list of fellows is a veritable Who’s-Who of British science and engineering, but also includes (evidently as a tribute to its Royalist roots) a handful of conservative politicians including Winston Churchill, Benjamin Disraeli and Margaret Thatcher. The Society’s Web site describes its illustrious history (as well as its current work), and has a special section on the 350th anniversary.
What makes all of this of urgent interest is that all of the on-line publications (including Proceedings A and B and Philosophical Transactions A and B), which date back to 1665, and include some of the most important historical and current works of science are now until the end of July available free to the public and can be downloaded. The Royal Society also offers commemorative publications.