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The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge
Sketch of the coat of arms; refer to to article text for description
Coat of arms of the Royal Society.
Formation 28 November 1660; 362 years ago (1660-11-28)
Headquarters London, SW1
United Kingdom
  • ~ 1600 Fellows
  • ~ 140 Foreign Members
  • 6 Royal Fellows
Adrian Smith (statistician)
Remarks Motto: Nullius in verba
("Take nobody's word for it")
Royal Society 20040420
The premises of The Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London (first four properties only).

The Royal Society is a society for science and scientists. It was founded in 1660 by Charles II. It is the oldest society of its kind still in existence.


A Royal Charter, on 15 July 1662, created "The Royal Society of London".

Lord Brouncker was the first President, and Robert Hooke was Curator of Experiments. The reigning monarch has always been the patron of the Royal Society since its foundation.

The motto of the Royal Society is Nullius in Verba (Latin: = Nothing in words). This shows the Society's commitment to establishing scientific truth through experiment rather than by quoting authority.

Although this seems obvious today, the philosophical basis of the Royal Society differed from previous philosophies such as scholasticism, which established scientific truth based on deductive logic, concordance with divine providence and the citation of such ancient authorities as Aristotle.


The members of the society are called Fellows of the Royal Society, and put the letters FRS after their names. There are usually about 1600 of them. They are elected by existing Fellows. All other posts, such as the Secretary and President, are also by election.

A selected list of Presidents

Mace of the Royal Society, granted by Charles II.

Data from Royal Society website.

Permanent staff

The Society's 15 Sections are administered by the permanent staff, led by the Executive Secretary, Stephen Cox CVO. The Executive Secretary is supported by the Senior Managers of the Society, including:

  • Mr Ian Cooper, Director of Finance and Operations
  • Dr Peter Collins, Director of Science Policy
  • Dr Peter Cotgreave, Director of Communications

Society honours

The Society bestows ten medals, seven awards (prizes) and nine prize lectureships variously annually, biennially or triennially, according to the terms of reference for each award. The Society also runs The Aventis Prizes for Science Books.



  • Buchanan Medal (for achievements in medicine)
  • Copley Medal (for work in any field of science)
  • Darwin Medal (for work in the broad area of biology in which Charles Darwin worked)
  • Davy Medal (for work in any branch of chemistry)
  • Gabor Medal (for work in biology, especially in genetic engineering and molecular biology)
  • Hughes Medal (for work in the physical sciences, particularly electricity and magnetism)
  • Leverhulme Medal (for work in pure or applied chemistry or engineering)
  • Royal Medal (for the two most important contributions to the advancement of Natural Knowledge)
  • Rumford Medal (for work in the fields of heat or light)
  • Sylvester Medal (for the encouragement of mathematical research)

Prize lectures

  • Bakerian lecture
  • Francis Crick Lecture
  • Croonian Lecture
  • Ferrier Lecture
  • Leeuwenhoek Lecture
  • Clifford Paterson lecture
  • Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar lecture
The coat-of-arms of the Royal Society as a stained-glass window. The motto is 'Nullius in verba'.


  • 1640s — informal meetings
  • 28 November 1660 — Royal Society founded at Gresham College
  • 1661 — name first appears in print, and library presented with its first book
  • 1662 — first Royal Charter gives permission to publish
  • 1663 — second Royal Charter
  • 1665 — first issue of Philosophical Transactions
  • 1666 — Fire of London causes move to Arundel House until 1673, then returns to Gresham College
  • 1669 — third Royal Charter; original proposal would have made Chelsea College the permanent home of the Society, but the site became Chelsea Hospital instead
  • 1710 — gets its own home in Crane Court
  • 1780 — moves to premises at Somerset House provided by the Crown
  • 1847 — changed election criteria so that Fellows would be elected solely on the merit of their scientific work
  • 1850 — Parliamentary Grant-in-aid commences, of £1,000, to assist scientists in their research and to buy equipment.
  • 1857 — moved to Burlington House in Piccadilly
  • 1967 — moved to present location on Carlton House Terrace

Related pages

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See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Royal Society para niños

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