From our earliest days, bequests from Fellows and friends have helped the Royal Society to achieve our fundamental purpose of recognising, supporting and promoting excellence in science. Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, the Society has been able to maintain our independence and the flexibility to respond to emerging scientific issues.

One of our founding Fellows, John Wilkins, made the first ever bequest to the Royal Society, of £400 in 1675 (worth around £50,000 today). From this point and throughout our history bequests have helped to build the Society’s reputation as the national academy of science in the UK, and helped us to play a part in some of the world’s most significant scientific discoveries.

Many of our core activities such as discussion meetings, independent policy advice, prizes and research grants would not be possible without this long-term support. Your bequest to the Royal Society will serve the cause of science for the coming centuries.

Find further information on Inheritance Tax guidelines, types of Legacies, and suggested wording for your will.

Find out more about just a few of the programmes made possible by our generous legators. More information can also be found in our Legacy booklet 2019 (PDF).

Tell us about your gift

If you decide to make a legacy to the Royal Society or if you have already remembered us in your Will, we would be very grateful if you would indicate your intentions by completing this form (PDF) and returning it to us.

Overseas donors: You may want to make a tax-efficient bequest from overseas (incl Hong Kong and the United States).

Restricted endowments: Please contact us if you have a specific purpose in mind for your gift to ensure that its use meets your wishes whilst supporting the aims of the Society.

Contact us


Tel.: +44 207 451 2211

Write to: Development, The Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG

Past legacies

Dr Sydney Andrew left a third of his estate to the Society in his will. This generous bequest has helped us to establish a collaborative partnership with the Society of Chemical Industry to fund PhD studentships which complement our Industry Fellowship scheme. 

The studentships fund researchers for three years working in industry on specific innovation projects that cross the traditional boundary between industry and academia, particularly in relation to the application of chemistry. Such projects bring new perspectives on key areas such as energy, materials and manufacturing, and health and wellbeing, and some areas such as agriculture - which receive little attention in academia - can benefit from fresh networks and insights. Help from a doctoral student is a valuable addition to the already unique Industry Fellowship scheme, ensuring the Industry Fellow makes faster progress on their vital scientific work.

Royal Society Industry Fellow Dr Stuart Reid is a Reader in the Institute of Advanced Technologies in the School of Computing and Engineering at the University of the West of Scotland. Dr Reid is undertaking research into compact carbon dioxide detectors which are used for breath analysis in patients under anaesthesia. Dr Reid’s team is producing low-cost devices that will increase our understanding of the effects of anaesthesia, thereby directly affecting patient safety in hospitals across the UK.

"This is an exciting time, as we begin to test the technology that we are developing, and investigate how best to streamline the combined manufacturing processes for these devices so that they can be used in hospitals across the UK and beyond. The support and flexibility offered by the Royal Society for such projects is truly unique and has been found to be absolutely crucial."
Dr Stuart Reid, Royal Society Industry Fellow, University of the West of Scotland

Ms Anne Robson left £10,000 in her will to the Society’s Centre for the History of Science. The bequest helped to fund the purchase of texts by acclaimed 17th century scientists Walter Charleton, John Ray, and Martin Lister FRS, further strengthening the reputation of the Centre amongst modern researchers as a unique resource into scientific history.

Five months after the first meeting of the Society’s founders ‘A motion was made for erecting of a library for the use of the Society’, recognising early on the importance of building a collection of significant works by the best scientists of each generation. Since its foundation more than 350 years ago, the Society’s library has continued to accumulate a number of seminal scientific texts to add to its collection, which now boasts historic works by figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Sir Isaac Newton FRS, and Robert Hooke FRS. Its holdings contain the shared scientific insights of Fellows and their collaborators around the world, over the best part of four centuries.

Today the Centre represents a vital ongoing part of the Society’s reputation as the UK’s leading scientific academy. It is accessible to the public free of charge and its artefacts, paintings and books are used by a broad array of scientists to aid their research.

Types of legacies

When considering a legacy gift in the UK, there are four main types of bequest, some of which may be more appropriate to your financial or personal circumstances.

  • Residuary: This is a gift of a percentage, or the whole, of an estate following the distribution of specific gifts and payment of any debts and expenses.
  • Pecuniary: This is a financial gift of money or shares.
  • Specific: This is a gift of an item, such as a portrait or historical document. When considering a specific bequest, it is advisable to speak to the Society to make sure that the Society will be a suitable home for the object.
  • Reversionary: This is a gift of an asset, such as a house or fund, which can be enjoyed by a chosen beneficiary during his or her lifetime before reverting to the Society.

Inheritance Tax

Because the Royal Society is a registered charity, bequests (be they residuary, pecuniary or specific) will not be subject to inheritance tax in the UK. By remembering the Society in your Will you may also be able to reduce the taxable value of your assets.  

Inheritance Tax is a tax on the estate (the property, money and possessions) of someone who has died.

There is normally no Inheritance Tax to pay if either:

  • the value of your estate is below the £325,000 threshold (if you are single) or £650,000 (if you are married couple or civil partners)*
  • you leave everything to an exempt beneficiary such as a charity. 

*Correct as of January 2019

Suggested wording

We recommend that you draft your Will in consultation with a qualified solicitor. The following wording is only a guide. Because the Royal Society is a registered charity, bequests – be they residuary, pecuniary or specific – will not be subject to inheritance tax in the UK.

For Residuary Legacies

I GIVE ……………% of my Residuary Estate to THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF LONDON FOR IMPROVING NATURAL KNOWLEDGE of 6 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG (Registered Charity Number 207043) absolutely and I express the wish but without imposing any binding trust or obligation that this be used in / applied towards…

For Pecuniary or Specific Legacies

I GIVE a pecuniary / specific legacy free of all tax of £X to THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF LONDON FOR IMPROVING NATURAL KNOWLEDGE of 6 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG (Registered Charity Number 207043) and I express the wish but without imposing any binding trust or obligation that this legacy be used in / applied towards…

Reversionary legacies should be drafted in consultation with a solicitor.