Royal Society

Association/Club in/near St James’s, existing between 1967 and now

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Association/Club · St James’s · SW1Y ·
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18
2019

The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering and medicine.

John Evelyn (1620-1706), a founder of the Royal Society
Credit: Royal Society
The Society has played a part in some of the most fundamental, significant, and life-changing discoveries in scientific history and Royal Society scientists continue to make outstanding contributions to science in many research areas.

The origins of the Royal Society lie in an ’invisible college’ of natural philosophers who began meeting in the mid-1640s to discuss the new philosophy of promoting knowledge of the natural world through observation and experiment, which we now call science.

Its official foundation date is 28 November 1660, when a group of 12 met at Gresham College after a lecture by Christopher Wren, then the Gresham Professor of Astronomy, and decided to found ’a Colledge for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematicall Experimentall Learning’. This group included Wren himself, Robert Boyle, John Wilkins, Sir Robert Moray, and William, Viscount Brouncker.

The Royal Society’s motto ’Nullius in verba’ roughly translates as ’take nobody’s word for it’. It is an expression of the determination of Fellows to withstand the domination of authority and to verify all statements by an appeal to facts determined by experiment.

The Society was to meet weekly to witness experiments and discuss what we would now call scientific topics. The first Curator of Experiments was Robert Hooke. It was Moray who first told the King, Charles II, of this venture and secured his approval and encouragement. At first apparently nameless, the name The Royal Society first appears in print in 1661, and in the second Royal Charter of 1663 the Society is referred to as ’The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge’.

The Society found accommodation at Gresham College and rapidly began to acquire a library (the first book was presented in 1661) and a repository or museum of specimens of scientific interest. After the Fire of 1666 it moved for some years to Arundel House, London home of the Dukes of Norfolk. It was not until 1710, under the Presidency of Isaac Newton, that the Society acquired its own home, two houses in Crane Court, off the Strand.

In 1662 the Society was permitted by Royal Charter to publish and the first two books it produced were John Evelyn’s Sylva and Micrographia by Robert Hooke. In 1665, the first issue of Philosophical Transactions was edited by Henry Oldenburg, the Society’s Secretary. The Society took over publication some years later and Philosophical Transactions is now the oldest scientific journal in continuous publication.

From the beginning, Fellows of the Society had to be elected, although the criteria for election were vague and the vast majority of the Fellowship were not professional scientists. In 1731 a new rule established that each candidate for election had to be proposed in writing and this written certificate signed by those who supported his candidature. These certificates survive and give a glimpse of both the reasons why Fellows were elected and the contacts between Fellows.

The Society moved again in 1780 to premises at Somerset House provided by the Crown, an arrangement made by Sir Joseph Banks who had become President in 1778 and was to remain so until his death in 1820. Banks was in favour of maintaining a mixture among the Fellowship of working scientists and wealthy amateurs who might become their patrons. This view grew less popular in the first half of the 19th century and in 1847 the Society decided that in future Fellows would be elected solely on the merit of their scientific work.

This new professional approach meant that the Society was no longer just a learned society but also de facto an academy of scientists. The Government recognised this in 1850 by giving a grant to the Society of £1000 to assist scientists in their research and to buy equipment. Therefore a Government Grant system was established and a close relationship began, which nonetheless still allowed the Society to maintain its autonomy, essential for scientific research. In 1857 the Society moved once more, to Burlington House in Piccadilly, with its staff of two.

Over the next century the work and staff of the Society grew rapidly and soon outgrew this site. Therefore in 1967 the Society moved again to its present location on Carlton House Terrace.


Main source: Welcome to the Royal Society | Royal Society
Further citations and sources


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John Evelyn (1620-1706), a founder of the Royal Society
Royal Society


 

St James’s

St James’s is an exclusive area in the West End of London.

St James’s was once part of the same royal park as Green Park and St James’s Park. In the 1660s, Charles II gave the right to develop the area to Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St Albans, who proceeded to develop it as a predominantly aristocratic residential area with a grid of streets centered on St James’s Square. Until the Second World War, St James’s remained one of the most exclusive residential enclaves in London. Famous residences in St James’s include St James’s Palace, Clarence House, Marlborough House, Lancaster House, Spencer House, Schomberg House and Bridgewater House.

St James’s is the home of many of the best known gentlemen’s clubs in London. The clubs found here are organisations of English high society. A variety of groups congregate here, such as royals, military officers, motoring enthusiasts, and other groups.

It is now a predominantly commercial area with some of the highest rents in London and, consequently, the world. The auction house Christie’s is based in King Street, and the surrounding streets contain a great many upmarket art and antique dealers.

Office space to rent in St James’s is the most expensive in the world, costing up to five times average rents in New York, Paris and Sydney.

The area is home to fine wine merchants including Berry Brothers and Rudd, at number 3 St James’s Street. Adjoining St James’s Street is Jermyn Street, famous for its many tailors. St James’s is home to some of the most famous cigar retailers in London. At 35 St James’s Street is Davidoff of London, 19 St James’s Street is home to J.J. Fox and 50 Jermyn St has Dunhill; this makes the area a Cuban cigar haven.

The iconic English shoemaker Wildsmith which designed the first ever loafer was located at 41 Duke Street, St, James’s. It is now currently located at 13 Savile Row.

The area has a good number of art galleries, covering a spectrum of tastes. The White Cube gallery, which represents Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, had originally opened in Duke Street, St James’s, then moved to Hoxton Square. In September 2006, it opened a second gallery in St James’s at 25–26 Mason’s Yard, off Duke Street, on a plot previously occupied by an electricity sub-station. The gallery is the first free-standing building to be built in the St James’s area for more than 30 years.
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