Saturday, 9 January 2010

Happy birthday, eggheads

It's the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society, the world's first academy of sciences. The Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge was founded on November 28th, 1660, when twelve natural philosophers met after a lecture by the architect Christopher Wren. The group had been meeting informally since the 1640s as an 'invisible college', but they decided to reveal themselves and become a bit more formal.

Wiggy Cromwell-victim and tree-hider Charles II was king at the time and he gave the proto-geeks his backing. They began to meet regularly to conduct experiments and chat about all things scientific. They settled at Gresham College in London, and set about building a library. Publishing began in 1662, and three years later started to produce their Transactions. Ever since, they have been the source and channel for an astounding amount of scientific research material, and is a centre of scientific advice for the government. They are now housed in Carlton House Terrace and have a core staff of over a hundred.

In celebration of their official birthday, loads of normally unavailable material from their archives has been made available online until the end of February. Have a look - there's a breathtaking amount of fascinating sciencey stuff for you to trawl through. Palaeontological material is in Philosophical Transactions B. The evolutionary material, which I'll be looking through, is here.

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