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The Invisible College

The serendipity of dates has us celebrating William Blake (see below) and the Royal Society on the same day.

From our post last year: On this day in 1660, after a talk on astronomy from Christopher Wren, a small group founded the Royal Society, the oldest continuously operating scientific organisation in the world. The first curator of experiments was Robert Hooke. Fellows were elected according to somewhat vague, but efficient, criteria. One of the first Fellows was Isaac Newton.

It was called an “invisible college”, a colloquium of geniuses that included Robert Boyle, John Wilkins, and Wren as well as the extremely capable administrator and natural philosopher Robert Moray. Ruthlessly dedicated to scientific knowledge based on experiment and mathematical proofs, critical and supportive of each other, they met weekly. Many of them were free-wheeling amateurs. They did not belong to universities or companies.

Today the Royal Society continues to support scientists with research grants and fellowships in a network of scientific exchange. Stephen Hawking, Nancy Rothwell, and Tim Berners-Lee are among the Fellows today.

See the Science Timeline for details about the Royal Society’s brilliant and eccentric founders.