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Highlights from the Royal Society Collections

Dorothy Hodgkin OM FRS by Graham Sutherland, 1979

Current exhibition: Science made visible

From the founding of the Royal Society in 1660 images and objects were an important part of science. The first Fellows created images to communicate new discoveries to their colleagues around the world, as well as to the London public. They also used graphical methods to explore and develop their ideas. Many of these beautiful and striking pictures can still be found in the archives of the Royal Society. This exhibition shows that making and seeing such images were essential for science in the 17th century.

Find out more about visiting the Science made visible exhibition at the Royal Society.

Highlights from our archives

The Royal Society collections are an invaluable resource for the study of the history and development of scientific thinking and practice. The archive collections hold the records related to the Royal Society going back to its foundation in 1660. In addition, the collections are rich in archival material, artwork and artefacts relating to the lives and works of the Society's Fellows - past and present. The library boasts a first-class selection of modern publications on the history of science, long-running journals published by the Royal Society, and rare and historical scientific works dating as far back as the 15th century.

The Wolfson Foundation at 60

The Wolfson Foundation is a charity, founded in 1955, that awards grants to support and promote excellence in the fields of science and medicine, the arts and humanities, education and health and disability. In celebration of the Foundation’s many contributions to science, and its other areas of activity, the Royal Society presents a selection of stories and documents from the Foundation’s archives.

  • The Davy lamp

    Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829) was a chemist, but perhaps is best known for inventing the miners’ safety-lamp, a lamp that would not cause explosions when gas was present in mines. 

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  • A Nobel laureate

    Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin OM FRS (1910-1994) was a leading biochemist and a pioneer in the field of protein crystallography. She received a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964, the first British woman to be so honoured.

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  • Hooke’s micrographia

    This is the world’s first illustrated book of microscopic observations. Robert Hooke investigated many everyday objects through the microscope, including a feather, mould, a razor’s edge, finely woven cloth, and even a full stop printed in a book.

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  • Principia mathematica

    The manuscript of Sir Isaac Newton’s work, philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica (1687, mathematical principles of natural philosophy), is the Royal Society’s greatest treasure and a cornerstone of scientific thought.

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  • The art and science of Richard Waller

    The paintings of Richard Waller FRS (c. 1660-1715) are technically brilliant and years ahead of their time. His groundbreaking set of botanical watercolours was intended to illustrate a catalogue of plants.

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  • A view of Vesuvius

    Sir William Hamilton FRS (1731-1803) arrived in Naples in 1764, intent on a systematic study of modern volcanic eruptions. He employed a monk, Antonio Piaggi, to keep daily written observations and pencil sketches of activity at Vesuvius. 

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