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Science, Religion and Politics: The Royal Society

Past display archive
11 September - 5 December 2010

Room 6

Free

John Wallis (1616-1703) by Gilbert Soest (c.1605–1681) Late 1660s, oil on canvas Lent by the Royal Society

John Wallis (1616-1703)
by Gilbert Soest (c.1605–1681)
Late 1660s, oil on canvas
Lent by the Royal Society

Marking the 350th anniversary of the foundation of the Royal Society, this display celebrates a key moment in the development of modern science.

The Society was founded on 28 November 1660 when a dozen men gathered to hear the young Christopher Wren give a lecture on astronomy. In the discussion that followed they decided to form 'a Colledge for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematicall Experimentall Learning'. They rejected the classical ideal that knowledge could be acquired through contemplation alone. Instead, they drew on the ‘new philosophy' devised by Sir Francis Bacon to pursue knowledge through first hand observation, data collection and experimentation. This revolutionary approach to investigating the world laid the foundations for three and a half centuries of scientific discovery and innovation.

The display features key figures in the early history of the Royal Society including Sir Christopher Wren, Robert Boyle, Samuel Pepys and Sir Isaac Newton. The Royal Society has generously loaned two important early portraits from its collection.

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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