The Society's Tropical Diseases Committee begins to research malaria and other ailments, particularly in Africa. As a result, Sir David Bruce elucidates the role of the tsetse fly in sleeping sickness.


Astronomers confirm general relativity theory to the Royal Society using observations made during the total eclipse of this year. Albert Einstein is elected to the Fellowship in 1921.


James Chadwick detects the neutron, and publishes his findings with the Royal Society. Soon, neutron bombardment of uranium will release the power of the atom.


Sigmund Freud is elected to the Fellowship.



The Royal Society hosts a 'secret party' at Burlington House for European Jewish scientists and intellectuals, all refugees from Nazism. Widely reported in the press, the guest list remained closed to protect relatives still in danger.



The first women Fellows are elected - Kathleen Lonsdale - a crystallographer and Marjory Stephenson, a biochemist.



The Festival of Britain takes place on the Southbank, with the Royal Festival Hall built for this purpose. The royal Society is involved in aspects of the festival including the Dome of Discovery.



Francis Crick and James Watson determine the structure of DNA, detailing their breakthrough in a paper to the Royal Society. It is the secret of life, radically changing science for decades to come.


The Royal Society establishes a research base at Halley Bay, Antarctica. Here in 1985, dramatic losses in the ozone layer are observed and the base remains an important location for climate research.


Dorothy Hodgkin becomes Britain's only female Nobel Prize winning scientist. Her x-ray crystallography work on penicillin and vitamin B12 had long been nurtured by the Royal Society.


The Society begins research on Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean having protected this frail ecological system from military development. It becomes part of the Seychelles and in 1982 a World Heritage Site.


The Royal Society launches its University Fellowship scheme, now its flagship grants scheme. The URF scheme seeks to identify and support scientists with the potential to become leaders in their field and in the wider UK scientific community. 1000 URFs have been appointed since its establishment, including mathematician Marcus du Sautoy and physicist Brian Cox.

Niall McDiarmid

Highlights from our history

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