Royal Society

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Royal Society
legal form Registered charity
founding July 15, 1662
Seat London
purpose Science and research
sales £ 111,693,000 (2019)
Employees 200 (2019)
Members 1700 (2020)

The Royal Society (German Royal Society ) is a British learned society founded in 1660 for the care of science. It serves as the UK's National Academy of Sciences for the natural sciences . Its members are referred to as Fellows of the Royal Society ( FRS or FRS for short ). The Royal Society also awards scientific awards, in particular the Copley Medal , the Royal Medal and medals that are dedicated to specific subject areas.

Royal Society building in London
From January 9, 1667 to the end of October 1674, the weekly meetings were held temporarily at Arundel House . From November 12, 1674, they met again at Gresham College .


The society was founded on November 28, 1660 at Gresham College in London as an association for the promotion of scientific experiments. The twelve founding members were Christopher Wren , Robert Boyle , John Wilkins , William Petty , William Brouncker , Robert Moray , Alexander Bruce, 2nd Earl of Kincardine (around 1629–1680), Paul Neile (1613–1686), Jonathan Goddard , William Ball , Abraham Hill (1635-1722) and Lawrence Rooke . The absent William Croone was appointed the company's registrar. On March 6, 1661, Robert Moray was elected first President of the Royal Society. Early members include a. John Evelyn , Robert Hooke , Samuel Pepys , John Wallis , Thomas Willis , Theodor Haak and the secretary Henry Oldenburg .

The name Royal Society first appeared in print in 1661. On July 15, 1662, Charles II granted the company its first royal charter . She appointed William Brouncker as their president and appointed the members of the council. The Society's council, however, was dissatisfied with her and obtained some changes. The second Royal Charter came into force on April 23, 1663. It set the name of the society as the Royal Society of London for Promoting Natural Knowledge , recognized Charles II as the founder and patron, and authorized it to carry a coat of arms . The second Royal Charter was read out on May 13, 1663 at a meeting of the members. It also gave the President and the Council the right to appoint suitable members to the Society during a two-month transition period without election. The members elected to the Royal Society on May 20 and June 22, 1663 in this way are referred to as "Original Fellows". Weekly meetings were suspended during the Great Plague of London . The last meeting took place on June 28, 1665, the next only on March 14, 1666.

The Royal Society's motto is “Nullius in Verba”, which translates as “according to nobody's words” (meaning “swear by nobody's words” - Nullius in verba iurare ). It stands for the declared will of society to establish a science that has only been proven experimentally and that is not satisfied with citing authorities. Although it seems self-evident today, at the time it was founded this was a clear break with the philosophy of science that had prevailed until then.

The journal Philosophical Transactions has been published since 1665 . From 1703 to 1727 Sir Isaac Newton presided over the Royal Society. Under his presidency, a separate building in London on the Strand was purchased. In 1780 the society was given premises in Somerset House (London / Strand). Although the members of the society were elected from the beginning, it was only since 1847 that the scientific merits of the potential member became the most important admission criterion. Women were not admitted to membership until 1945, the only exception being Queen Victoria .

In 1857 the Royal Society was housed in Burlington House London / Piccadilly. Today she uses the former building of the German embassy in London , No. 8 & No. 9 Carlton House Terrace, as its seat. The Royal Society has grown into a major academy of high-level scholars.

Awards given

Fellow of the Royal Society

The membership in the Royal Society's who have made a significant contribution to improving the scientific knowledge including mathematics, engineering and medicine, according to the Royal Society an honor that is awarded to people. So far there have been around 8,000 fellows in total. There are currently 1,675 living fellows. There are the following types of fellowships:

  • Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS)
  • Foreign Member of the Royal Society (ForMemRS) for foreign members
  • Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society (HonFRS), formerly Statute 12 Fellowship , is honorary membership in the Royal Society for people who have made a contribution to science, without the formal requirements
  • Royal Fellows of the Royal Society for members of the royal family

Fellows have the distinction added to their name, e.g. E.g .: Sir Alec Jeffreys FRS (Fellow of the Royal Society).


The Royal Society awards ten different medals, nine "prizes and awards" and nine "prize lectureships" every year, every two years or every three years, depending on the award. The recipients of the medals and prize lectureships are determined by the Physical Sciences Awards Committee and the Biological Sciences Awards Committee. These committees consist of members (" Fellows ") of the Royal Society.

Medals awarded so far:

English name German name Set up Cycle (current) Area
Buchanan Medal Buchanan Medal 1897 every two years in odd years medicine
Copley Medal Copley Medal 1731 yearly all sciences
Darwin Medal Darwin medal 1890 every two years in even years biology
Davy Medal Davy medal 1877 yearly chemistry
Gabor Medal Gabor medal 1989 every two years in odd years interdisciplinary research
Hughes Medal Hughes Medal 1902 yearly physics
King Charles II Medal 1997 irregular for heads of state who sponsor research
Leverhulme Medal Leverhulme Medal 1960 every three years Chemistry and chemical engineering
Royal Medal Royal Medal 1826 three medals annually 2 × natural sciences, 1 × applied sciences
Rumford Medal Rumford Medal 1800 every two years in even years Thermal and optical material properties
New Years Medal New Years Medal 1901 every two years mathematics

Other prices

The awards include the Rosalind Franklin Award, which has been presented exclusively to female winners since 2003 . It is endowed with £ 30,000 and honors outstanding achievements in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) . The Royal Society Milner Award named after Robin Milner is presented for outstanding achievements in the field of computer science . Prize winners are Xavier Leroy (2016), Thomas Henzinger (2015), Bernhard Schölkopf (2014), Serge Abiteboul (2013) and Gordon Plotkin (2012).

The Bakerian Lecture and the Croonian Lecture are also held annually .


Title page of the first edition dated March 6, 1665 of Philosophical Transactions


Here is a list of some of the most important presidents:


See: Category: Member of the Royal Society

In 2016 there were around 1,600 Fellows and foreign members of the Royal Society. A scientist from Great Britain or the Commonwealth can become a fellow. Each year up to 52 fellows and 10 external members are accepted by voting from a list of approximately 700 candidates proposed by the members.

Members of the British royal family can be elected Royal Fellows of the Royal Society by secret ballot. In 2013, Prince Andrew was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Traditionally, the ballot papers only contained the option of ticking “Yes” or invalidating the ballot papers. This procedure led to protests from prominent members of the Royal Society.

In addition, there have been Honorary Fellows since 1996, for example Bill Bryson , who are not elected for academic achievements, but for other reasons. Previously there was the procedure of Statute 12 Arrangements .

Other Royal Societies

Great Britain

In the 19th and 20th centuries, other royal societies were founded to promote individual sciences.

The Royal Society of Chemistry was formed in 1980 from the Chemical Society (founded 1841), the Society for Analytical Chemistry (founded 1874), the Royal Institute of Chemistry (founded 1877) and the Faraday Society (founded 1903) .

The Medical Society of London, founded in 1733, became the Medical and Surgical Society of London in 1805 , which in turn is the forerunner of the Royal Society of Medicine . There is also a Royal Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene, a Royal Society for the Promotion of Health.

In 1904, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds was created, also from previous associations . There is also a Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals , a Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and Royal Society for Nature Conservation.

The Royal Societies also often perform the functions of professional associations , e.g. B. the Royal Society of British Organists.

The Royal Society of Literature was founded by George IV in 1820 .

Rest of the Commonwealth

Based on the British model, the Royal Society of Canada , based in Ottawa , was established in 1882 .

In New Zealand , the Royal Society of New Zealand is an umbrella organization for over 60 scientific and technological societies.


  • Bill Bryson (Ed.): Seeing Further. The Story of Science and the Royal Society. Harper Press, London 2010, ISBN 978-0-00-730256-7 .
  • Thomas Birch: The history of the Royal Society of London for improving of natural knowledge from its first rise, in which the most considerable of those papers communicated to the Society, which have hitherto not been published, are inserted as a supplement to the Philosophical Transactions . 4 volumes, A. Millar, London 1756-1757, Volume 1 (1660-1664), Volume 2 (1665-1671), Volume 3 (1672-1679), Volume 4 (1680-1687).
  • Marie Boas Hall: Promoting experimental learning: experiment and the Royal Society 1660-1727 . Cambridge University Press, 1991, ISBN 0-521-40503-3 .
  • Thomas Sprat: The history of the Royal Society of London, for the improving of natural knowledge . J. Martyn, London 1667, (online) .
  • Charles Richard Weld: A History of the Royal Society: With Memoirs of the Presidents . JW Parker, London 1848, Volume 1 (1660-1745), Volume 2 (1746-1847).

Web links

Commons : Royal Society  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Thomas Birch: The history of the Royal Society of London for improving of natural knowledge. Volume 1, p. 17, (online) .
  2. ^ Thomas Birch: The history of the Royal Society of London for improving of natural knowledge. Volume 1, pp. 88ff., (Online) .
  3. ^ Thomas Birch: The history of the Royal Society of London for improving of natural knowledge. Volume 1, pp. 236ff., (Online) .
  4. ^ ES de Beer: The Earliest Fellows of the Royal Society. In: Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London. Volume 7, number 2, 1950, pp. 172-192, doi: 10.1098 / rsnr.1950.0014 .
  5. ^ Thomas Birch: The history of the Royal Society of London for improving of natural knowledge. Volume 2, p. 65, (online) .
  6. ^ Richard Holmes: The Royal Society's lost women scientists. In: The Observer . November 21, 2010.
  7. ^ Fellows Directory - Royal Society . In: . Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  8. Royal Society Milner Award ( Memento of the original from July 23, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . Retrieved July 20, 2015. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  9. ^ Royal Society, Fellows
  10. ^ Peter Walker: Royal Society scientists angered by Prince Andrew's election as fellow . In: The Guardian , May 5, 2013.