Research

The Royal Society supports academic researchers in history of science and related disciplines and is host to several research projects funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Current projects

Holmes

The Royal Society and the 19th century literary imagination

Dr John Robert Holmes, University of Reading

PhD student, Katherine Ford has been working within the Society’s collections, examining the impact of science and particularly the Royal Society on Victorian literature. In addition to researching and refining the subject-matter for her thesis, Katherine has supported the Library’s work in cataloguing, reading room support and blogging among many other contributions. 

Publishing the Philosophical Transactions: the social, cultural and economic history of a learned journal, 1665-2015

Dr Aileen Fyfe, University of St Andrews

This project intends to research and write the definitive history of the commercial and editorial practices of the Philosophical Transactions. It will also use the Royal Society’s archive to compile a series of historical economic data series relating to the book trade, which will be freely available online.

In 2015, the project team, including postdoctoral researchers Dr Noah Moxham and Dr Julie McDougall-Waters will run a series of anniversary events, celebrating Philosophical Transactions and creating a public forum for discussing the future of scholarly publishing.

Geographies of science AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Awards

Dr Catherine Souch, the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)

A Collaborative Doctoral Awards partnership to assign three studentships per annum to examine complementary aspects of each institution’s archives of science across all continents and periods. Individual PhD topics to be determined by the host institutions, the first PhD student will begin work on Royal Society collection from 2014.

Words from the WISE

Dr Sue Hawkins, Kingston University and Dr Jennifer Thomas, Rothschild Archives

An AHRC supported networking team intended to examine women’s participation in the activities of learned scientific societies in the 20th and 21st centuries. Outputs will be three workshops and a conference aimed at framing research questions in this subject-area.

Constructing scientific communities: Citizen Science in the 19th and 21st Centuries

Professor Sally Shuttleworth, University of Oxford

A Science in Culture Large Grant award, the project will bring together historical and literary research in the 19th century with contemporary scientific practice, looking at the ways in which patterns of popular communication and engagement in 19th-century science can offer models for current practice.

Origins of science as a visual pursuit

Dr. Sachiko Kusukawa, University of Cambridge 

This AHRC research project is investigating the relationship between science and visual culture in seventeenth-century England. The purpose is to understand how art, artists, and reproductive-print makers enabled creativity and innovation in science in the seventeenth century, and to what extent naturalists and natural philosophers, in turn, transformed visual resources and strategies into something of their own.

Robert Hooke’s life and work

Dr Felicity Henderson, University of Exeter

This project aims to recover the work of the Royal Society Curator of Experiments and Secretary Robert Hooke (1635-1703) by producing a new annotated list of his papers, a new edition of his diary, and the first edition of his correspondence.

The Royal Society 1950-2010

Dr Peter Collins, the Royal Society

Peter Collins, Emeritus Director at the Royal Society, is researching a book (published by Cambridge University Press in 2015) on the history of the organisation’s last 60 years. Using the Society’s own very rich archives, supplemented by material from the National Archive and elsewhere, and over 50 key witness interviews the project aims to describe and analyse the Society’s domestic role and international influence in a rapidly changing scientific landscape.

Opening hours

The Library Reading Room is open to the public from 10am - 5pm Monday to Friday (closed on bank holidays).

 Please read about visiting the library if you are coming here for the first time.

Events and exhibitions

We run a programme of regular events, conferences and exhibitions on the history of science for researchers and members of the public.

Audio recordings and video recordings are available for many of our events. 

An archive of some of our past exhibitions is also available.