The Royal Society of London


The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, or simply the Royal Society, is the oldest society for science still functioning. King Charles II granted it a Royal Charter as the “Royal Society of London”. Today it acts as a scientific adviser for the British government and as UK’s Academy of Sciences, founding many scientific start-up companies and research fellowships.

There are 1.314 active members with the title FRS, Fellow of the Royal Society, and 44 new members that join every year. Honorary Fellows, Royal Fellows and Foreign Members are also part of the Society. Respecting a set of Statutes and Standing Orders, the Fellows designate a Council chaired by a President to govern them. Sir Paul Nurse was elected on 30 November 2010 as president. The Royal Society’s motto, ”Nullius in verba”, Latin for “Take nobody’s word for it” encourages the search of scientific evidence to support facts. The headquarter of the Society is at 6–9 Carlton House Terrace since 1967, a building in central London.

The Royal Society was as an invisible college formed in 1640 by natural philosophers who wanted to discuss about their knowledge of the natural world, acquired through experiments and observation. Twenty years later, on 28 November 1660, a group of 12 decided to form it officially as a “College for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematical Experimental Learning”. After the second meeting, King Charles II approved of the gatherings by signing a Royal Charter which created the “Royal Society of London”.

In 1705, the Society was no longer allowed to rent Gresham College, so two houses were bought in Crane Court. Because the members were not paying their subscription, financial difficulties became visible and continued until 1741. The Society moved again in 1780 to Somerset House, arrangements made by the President Sir Joseph Banks. Banks allowed wealthy amateurs to become Fellows, but in 1847 the Society decided that only working scientists were eligible.

In 1850 the Government recognized the Royal Society as an academy of scientists and granted them £1,000 to support the research. Two years later they relocated to Burlington House in Piccadilly, where they will remain until 1967.

Today, the Society has many activities and functions, awarding prize money, lectures and medals to finance research. Almost 700 research fellowships for scientists are funded, along with many research and innovation grants. In 2008 the Royal Society Enterprise Fund was opened, a self-sustaining account intended for new scientific companies.