The Royal Society

Newton Reflecting Scope First Newtonian reflecting telescope. © The Royal Society.

By Former President of the Royal Society Lord Martin Rees

What is the Royal Society?

Officially founded in 1660, when a group of 12 (which included Christopher Wren and Robert Boyle) decided to found 'a Colledge for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematicall Experimentall Learning', the Royal Society is a Fellowship of the world's most eminent scientists and is the oldest national scientific academy in continuous existence. Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Dorothy Hodgkin and Stephen Hawking have all entered their names into the Charter book of the Royal Society and today there are approximately 1,500 Fellows and Foreign Members - including 77 Nobel Laureates.

What does the Royal Society do?

The Royal Society represents the British scientific community within Britain and throughout the world. Our aim is to support the development and use of science, mathematics, engineering and medicine in order to increase humanity’s knowledge and understanding.

Why is science so important?

Science has transformed the world. Without scientific advances, we would still be living like our ancestors. Today’s youth will spend the rest of their lives in a world ever more moulded by science. New science, and better application of the science we already understand, will also be required to solve the global challenges we face today - such as accommodating a growing and more demanding population without degrading the environment. It has wider benefits too and the UK won't remain prosperous unless we can sustain our technical expertise in an increasingly competitive world.
Apart from its practical use, let's not forget that science is part of our culture - fascinating in its own right. It is wonderful that we can understand how humans evolved from simple life on the young Earth, which we now realise is a tiny speck in an immense cosmos.