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The role of black people in the history of the Royal Society

The role of black people in the history of the Royal Society and in the development of science is complicated and sometimes difficult.

In this online exhibition we highlight the leading role that Fellows of the Society took in opposing slavery, as well as the participation of black scientists in the development of fields as diverse as zoology, mathematics and disease prevention, even if they did not get the recognition they deserved. This exhibition also captures the perspectives of black scientists working in science today. Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock also features in our ‘Inspiring Scientists’ project where, in partnership with National Life Stories at the British Library, we recorded the ‘life stories’ of 10 British scientists with minority ethnic heritage.

Black scientists are significantly underrepresented in UK science. We are committed to increasing diversity in STEM by seeking out participation from underrepresented groups, in order to build and develop a world in which studying and working in science are open to all. Find out more about diversity in science and our activities here.

Read the profiles below to explore the contribution black scientists have made to science both in the past and present.

Types of mankind

Hidden portraits


Inventions and abolition

Working in the background

Sleeping sickness

Dr David Ogbolu

Dr Steven Spoel

Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock