28 November 1660: the Royal Society is founded

After the restoration of the monarchy, members of the “Invisible College” asked King Charles II to approve their scientific and literary society. A Royal Charter was granted two years later.

The Royal Society is one of the world's most famous scientific bodies. Its roots lie in a series of regular meetings of a small group of scientists and scientifically interested people, including the architect Christopher Wren and the physicist Robert Boyle, that began in 1645. The worsening of the English Civil War saw this self-styled “Invisible College” split into two groups – one in Oxford and one in Gresham's College, London – by the late 1640s. Later, political turmoil would force the London group to suspend its meetings from 1658 to 1660.

The restoration of Charles II to the English throne in May 1660 finally brought stability back to political life and the London meetings resumed. At that point, both groups decided that it would be best to put the society on a more formal basis. So on 28 November, the 12 founding members agreed to approach the new king for his approval. At the same time they expanded the society by inviting 40 other members to take part, including soldiers and literary figures as well as scientists (35 would end up accepting).

The Royal Charter would be formally granted in July 1662. Thanks to several energetic leaders, most notably Isaac Newton, who was president from 1703 to 1727, the Royal Society played a key role in disseminating scientific ideas. In 1665 it established the first dedicated scientific journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, which continues to be published today. It also acted as a key scientific adviser to the British government. During the 19th century, the numbers of non-scientists were drastically cut down and it started receiving government funding.

Today, the Royal Society remains a respected body with around 1,600 members.

Recommended

What does the US dollar’s sudden about-turn mean for the markets?
Currencies

What does the US dollar’s sudden about-turn mean for the markets?

After rallying strongly since late spring, the US dollar wobbled this week. Dominic Frisby looks at where the greenback is going next, and what that m…
29 Jul 2021
Big tech smashes expectations with bumper profits
Tech stocks

Big tech smashes expectations with bumper profits

Big tech companies have reported profits far in excess of expectations, with Apple, Alphabet and Microsoft generating a combined $56.8bn. Saloni Sarda…
28 Jul 2021
Oil is taking a well-earned rest. But the bull market isn’t done yet
Oil

Oil is taking a well-earned rest. But the bull market isn’t done yet

The oil price has more than doubled in the last five years. It’s come off the boil recently, but in the longer term, things are still looking good. Do…
28 Jul 2021
Why you should treat whole-life insurance policies with extreme caution
Personal finance

Why you should treat whole-life insurance policies with extreme caution

Whole-life insurance policies are often marketed to people in their 50s and over. But there are significant drawbacks and you could end up with nothin…
28 Jul 2021

Most Popular

The MoneyWeek Podcast: Asia, financial repression and the nature of capitalism
Economy

The MoneyWeek Podcast: Asia, financial repression and the nature of capitalism

Russell Napier talks to Merryn about financial repression – or "stealing money from old people slowly" – plus how Asian capitalism is taking over in t…
16 Jul 2021
Why the UK's 2.5% inflation is a big deal
Inflation

Why the UK's 2.5% inflation is a big deal

After years of inflation being a financial-assets problem, it is now an “ordinary things” problem too, says Merryn Somerset Webb. But central banks st…
16 Jul 2021
Three companies that are reaping the rewards of investment
Share tips

Three companies that are reaping the rewards of investment

Professional investor Edward Wielechowski of the Odyssean Investment Trust highlights three stocks that have have invested well – and are able to deal…
19 Jul 2021