Science, Religion and Politics: The Royal Society
Past display archive
11 September - 5 December 2010
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
- Sir William Petty (NPG 2924)
- Samuel Pepys (NPG 211)
- William Brouncker, 2nd Viscount Brouncker (NPG 1567)
- John Ray (NPG 563)
- John Locke (NPG 114)
- Sir Isaac Newton (NPG 2881)
- Sir Christopher Wren (NPG 113)
- Edmond Halley (NPG 4393)
- Margaret Cavendish (née Lucas), Duchess of Newcastle upon Tyne (NPG D11111)
- John Wilkins (NPG D19054)