Friday, February 6, 2015

The Royal Society

by Brett Peix

The Royal Society

The Royal Society was founded in November 28, 1660 at Gresham College as a group "for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematical Experimental Learning." Shortly thereafter they sought approval of the King, Charles II, and upon his consent became known as The Royal Society. Since then, the Royal Society become the preeminent fellowship of the world's most distinguished scientists. It was originally housed at Gresham college, but after the Great Fire of London in 1666 it was relocated to the Arundel House in Norfolk, located in London known as the home of the Dukes. In 1710 the Society acquired its own home; two houses in Crane Court, off the Strand. It was not until 1967 until it moved to the present location we viewed today on our tour.

The Council Room

What they do now: Today the society encourages the development of science, mathematics, engineering, and medicine around the world. Their recent big headliner that you may know was on Fracking, "The process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside". They claimed it was safe for the environment if proceeded with all of the right precautions, but as the tour guide stated, "Certain companies will misread the publications and take certain shortcuts". 

What we did: As a whole class we received a tour of the Royal society. We were shown around the building, told historical information regarding the society and its members, what they do, and how it was originally founded. We also used their library to access any information we needed to help write our essay for the trip, which included even some original books written by some of the founding fathers of the Royal Society.

Here are some of the cool things we got to see on our tour.
Sir Isaac Newton's first telescope

Presidents of the Royal Society: Each president is listed by the order they served their presidency followed by the years they were elected to when they left office on the right side of their names.

Presidents:  Isaac Newton ran the Royal Society for 24 years, which seems like an eternity, but Joseph Banks (The name on the very bottom left corner) served as the Society's President for the longest period of time at 42 years. Lord Wrottesley was the Society's shortest serving president when he only ran the Society for one year in 1854-1855.

The Royal Society has been made up of some of the most brilliant minds in science for the past 355 years to this very present day.  Famous names, such as, Robert Boyle, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Thomas Young were all elected as fellows of the Society at certain points in their lives. 

Portrait of Thomas Young
Thomas Young
As science has progressed, certain fields have become quite complex and specialized. Fields range from biochemistry to astrophysics now, and even new branches have been made in recent decades, such as my major, Kinesiology. In the past, it was easier for a scientist to contribute to many different fields. Thomas Young, deemed "The Last Man who Knew Everything" was one of the last, if not, the last scientist to be well versed in nearly every field. He's most famously remembered for his Double Slit experiment in which he proved that light can display characteristics of waves, and for deciphering the Rosetta Stone.

What we got to do in the library: Once we showed our passports and I.D's, we got to access their library for any information and use any book they had in it through the help of the librarians. One of the books they presented us with was an original first-edition copy of Robert Hooke's book on  microscopy (Micrographia, 1665), with his original sketches of cork cells and insects he viewed through a microscope. Because he wanted realistic images, he refrained from killing the insects and would try various tactics to hold them still including, alcohol to "loosen them up" and sticks to help hold them in place.

Sketch of the microscopic structure of cork - Hooke used the term "Cells" for these, and while they are not cells in the modern sense of the term he is credited with originating the term.
Sketch of a Flea

Overall going to the Royal Society was a great experience and an eye opener for me. I loved standing in a building that may of had a short but very strong scientific history with some of the greatest names in science. What lies ahead for the future will be deemed nothing but greatness as science continues to evolve and shape our everyday lives.

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