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

16 January 1991: Operation Desert Storm begins
This day in history

16 January 1991: Operation Desert Storm begins

Coalition forces led by the US launched an operation to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi forces on this day in 1991, sending the oil price soaring.
16 Jan 2021
15 January 1892: the rules of basketball are published
This day in history

15 January 1892: the rules of basketball are published

Canadian PE instructor Dr James Naismith, working at a YMCA training school, published the 13 rules of basketball on this day in 1892.
15 Jan 2021
15 January 1759: British Museum opens
This day in history

15 January 1759: British Museum opens

On this day in 1759, the British Museum opened in Bloomsbury after Sir Hans Sloane left his of collection of books, manuscripts and specimens to the n…
15 Jan 2021
14 January 2002: Britain’s foot-and-mouth disease epidemic ends
This day in history

14 January 2002: Britain’s foot-and-mouth disease epidemic ends

The government finally declared Britain’s foot-and-mouth disease crisis over on this day in 2002, almost a year after the first case had been identifi…
14 Jan 2021

Most Popular

Bitcoin: fool’s gold or the new gold?
Bitcoin

Bitcoin: fool’s gold or the new gold?

With bitcoin hitting new highs last week, and close to becoming a mainstream investment, is it really gold for the 21st century?
15 Jan 2021
The MoneyWeek Podcast: bitcoin special
Bitcoin

The MoneyWeek Podcast: bitcoin special

Merryn talks to bitcoin experts Dominic Frisby and Charlie Morris to get the lowdown on the cryptocurrency to find out why it's such a huge global phe…
15 Jan 2021
Leasehold reforms promise the end of a nightmare for many homeowners
Property

Leasehold reforms promise the end of a nightmare for many homeowners

Horror stories about unscrupulous landlords profiting from a legal relic of the feudal era are about to get a happy ending, says Simon Wilson.
16 Jan 2021