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

  • The next big thing 29 May 2015 at Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye, Wales Four Royal Society Research Fellows discuss their work at the forefront of science at the Hay Festival.
  • Stuff matters 31 May 2015 at Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye, Wales Join award winning author Mark Miodownik at the Hay Festival.
  • Elements, genomes and ecosystems: cascading nitrogen and phosphorus impacts across levels of biological organisation 01 June 2015 at The Royal Society at Chicheley Hall, home of the Kavli Royal Society International Centre, Buckinghamshire Theo Murphy international scientific meeting organised by Professor Andrew Leitch, Professor Maurine Neiman, Professor Dag Hessen, Professor Puni Jeyasingh, Professor Lawrence J. Weider and Dr Ilia Leitch

For more events please see the events diary.

Share this page