Royal Society, oldest scientific organization in Great Britain and one of the oldest in Europe. It was founded in 1660 by a group of learned men in London who met to promote scientific discussion, particularly in the physical sciences. The Royal Society was first chartered in 1662; in its second charter (1663) it was called the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge. It stimulates research in that field and acts in the capacity of adviser on scientific matters to the government, from which it receives annual subsidies. The Royal Society ranks as the foremost organization of its kind; its membership always includes leading scientists of the world. One of its activities is the publication of its Proceedings and The Philosophical Transactions. Among those who served as president of the Royal Society are Samuel Pepys, Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Joseph Banks, Sir Humphry Davy, Sir William Huggins, Lord Rayleigh, Sir Archibald Geikie, Sir William Crookes, Sir Joseph John Thomson, Sir Charles Sherrington, Lord Rutherford, Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins, Sir William Henry Bragg, Lord Adrian, Lord Florey, Sir Alan Lloyd Hodgkin, Sir Andrew Fielding Huxley, and Sir Paul Nurse.
See T. Sprat, History of the Royal Society (1667, ed. by J. I. Cope and H. W. Jones, 1959); Sir Harold Hartley, ed., Royal Society: Its Origins and Founders (1960); M. Hunter, Establishing the New Science: The Experience of the Early Royal Society (1989).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.