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Royal Society

November 28, 2010

Scientific societies are an important avenue for researchers to get together and exchange results and ideas. Astronomers alone, for example, attend meetings of the AAS, AAAS, APS, IAU, and many others.

They can trace that collegiality to a single group -- the Royal Society -- which was founded 350 years ago today.

Several British scientists had been holding occasional meetings for a couple of decades. But they wanted a more formal structure. On the night of November 28th, 1660, they heard a lecture by Christopher Wren, an astronomer, mathematician, and architect. Afterwards, they formally established a scientific society. With the support of King Charles II, it became the Royal Society -- one of the first scientific societies in the world.

During its early decades, its members saw experiments and read papers on such topics as blood circulation, the tiny organisms they saw through the microscope, and ancient stone circles in the British countryside.

Isaac Newton first presented his ideas about the refraction of light to the Society, which later published his groundbreaking work on gravity and the motion of the planets. Newton served as president of the society for two decades.

Today, it’s still one of the leading scientific organizations in the world. Its Fellows explore everything from the structure of matter to the structure of the universe. They share their results, as many before them did, through the Royal Society.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2010


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