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The Founding Of The Royal Society

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The Founding Of The Royal Society

The Royal Society was founded in 1660, only a few months after the Restoration of King Charles II, by members of one or two either secretive or informal societies. The Royal Society enjoyed the confidence and official support of the restored monarchy, in part because the establishment wanted better control over the "new science". The "New" or "Experimental" form of philosophy had been generally ill-regarded by the Aristotelian academies, but had been promoted by Sir Francis Bacon in his book The New Atlantis.

Robert Boyle refers to the "Invisible College" as early as 1646. A founding meeting was held at the premises of Gresham College in Bishopsgate on 28 November 1660, immediately after a lecture by Sir Christopher Wren, who was at that time Gresham Professor of Astronomy. The founding group of 12 natural philosophers, including Robert Boyle, John Wilkins and Wren, decided to form a 'Colledge for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematicall Experimentall Learning', which would meet weekly to view experiments and discuss science. At a second meeting a week later, Sir Robert Moray, an influential Freemason who had helped organise the public emergence of the group, reported that the King approved of the meetings.

A formal Royal Charter of incorporation passed the Great Seal on 15 July 1662, creating "The Royal Society of London", with Lord Brouncker as the first President, and Robert Hooke was appointed as Curator of Experiments in November 1662. A second Royal Charter was sealed on 23 April 1663, naming the King as Founder and changing the name to "The Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge". Her Majesty The Queen is the current patron, and the reigning monarch has always been the patron of the Royal Society since its foundation.

Following the Great Fire of London the society moved to Arundel House, the home of Duke of Norfolk. It moved again in 1710 to Crane Court in the Strand, and a second time in 1780 to Somerset House. In 1857, the Society moved to Burlington House in Piccadilly where it remained until its move to the present location in Carlton House Terrace in 1967.

The motto of the Royal Society, "Nullius in Verba" (Latin: "On the words of no one", or "take nobody's word for it"; the full quote from Horace—Nullius addictus judicare in verba magistri—expands into the gold standard of objectivity: "Not compelled to swear to any master's words." although the Royal Society itself now prefers the translation "Nothing in words", and its former president Robert May favours "Respect the facts"), signifies the Society's commitment to establishing the truth of scientific matters through experiment rather than through citation of 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. In fact, it represented the final triumph of the vision of the friar Roger Bacon, who had fought scholastic authorities in an attempt to establish such a repository of learning in the 1200s.

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