Fossils: the evolution of an idea

Hooke ammonites

An exhibition of books and archives from the Royal Society Library and fossils from the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, Cambridge.

About the exhibition

Fossils have been a familiar sight for people throughout history, but for many generations they prompted a series of questions. What are fossils? How are they formed? How did they get inside rocks? To help answer these questions, geologists from the 16th century onwards collected and studied fossils. Often they published their theories in beautifully illustrated books. The works of each generation of scientists produced new answers to fundamental questions about the history of the earth, and the progress of life on earth.

This exhibition displays some of the fossil specimens owned by Fellows of the Royal Society in the 17th and 18th centuries, and printed books demonstrating the changing ideas about fossils. Highlights include an ichthyosaur discovered by Mary Anning, the original illustrations for Agostino Scilla's 'La vana speculazione disingannata dal senso' (published in 1670), and specimens from the collections of Scilla and John Woodward FRS.

We are grateful to the trustees and staff of the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, Cambridge, for loans from their collections and assistance in preparing the exhibition.

Visiting the exhibition

The exhibition is free and all are welcome to attend. No prior reservation is necessary. Entry is via 7 Carlton House Terrace.
Opening times:
10.00am to 5.00pm, Monday to Friday
Please note the exhibition will be closed on Friday 12 July and no visits will be possible on that date.
For enquiries or further information please contact the Royal Society library:

Fossils: the evolution of an idea 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK

Events coming up

  • Suffrage Science Awards Ceremony 08 March 2015 at The Royal Society, London An evening celebrating the achievements of leading women scientists on International Women’s Day
  • Origin and evolution of the nervous system 09 March 2015 at The Royal Society, London Scientific discussion meeting organised by Professor Nicholas Strausfeld FRS and Dr Frank Hirth
  • Ebola: inside an epidemic 09 March 2015 at The Royal Society, London Discover the how and why of the 2014 Ebola outbreak from leading public health figures. Panel discussion chaired by Dame Sally Davies FRS.

For more events please see the events diary.

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