Royal Society and Restoration

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2010 is the 350th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Society and the return of monarchy to England in the person of our old friend King Charles II. Both these events make 1660 one of the key years in British history. The Royal society gave shape to, and provided a forum for, a remarkable network of some of the great minds of Early Modern ‘Natural Philosophy’. People such as Christopher Wren, Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle all used the society to discuss, ferment ideas and keep active in a surprisingly global communication network. The restoration of the Monarchy after twenty years of turmoil, civil war and interregnum was a remarkable event and proved immensely popular in the short term. The return of Charles and the royalist cause had significant effects on the religious and political development of the country. While not wanting to reduce 350 years of complex political and cultural history to mere flippancy it’s worth pointing out that for better or worse we still have a monarchy to this day (just thought I’d mention that in case no one had noticed).

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Over the unfurling months I hope to focus more of my blog posts on aspects of the Royal Society and the Restoration and explore their significance and peculiarities which I hope will fit in nicely with the anniversaries.

The society thrived as Charles replaced the political vacuum of the last days of the interregnum while the vacuum created by Robert Boyle's air pump was a popular source of experiment for the new Society

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It’s certainly appropriate that these anniversaries coincide as the ‘royal’ in the Royal Society is our man Charles himself. The royal charter wasn’t officially granted to the Society until 1662, but the society had already dedicated itself to the King at the first official meeting of the group in November 1660 on the understanding that Charles approved of the idea. The roots of the society stretch back into the 1640s but it is interesting that it was in the heady optimism of that honeymoon year of restoration that the founding members decided to coalesce themselves into a formal and regular society.  While Charles was not the impetus behind the birth of the group he was over the years an active patron and had genuine personal interest in aspects of science, a laboratory was installed in Whitehall for his use, as well as a virtuoso’s taste for the curious and new. The spirit of cooperation and ‘gentlemanly’ respect that the society specifically stated it wanted to follow also tapped into Charles’ own preferred approach to things.

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More on the events and activities that will be occurring to celebrate the Royal Society’s anniversary can be found at their  ‘See Further’ website. Also for a potted history including some great images and primary sources see this fun website as well, Trailblazing.

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4 thoughts on “Royal Society and Restoration

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  3. Pingback: Science – Pursuit of Poesy Friday (No.5) « The Gentleman Administrator

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