The Royal Society celebrates 350 years

A critical moment in the history of modern science is captured in a new display at the National Portrait Gallery in London, as the Royal Society marks its 350th anniversary.

Sir Isaac Newton Sir Christopher Wren Samuel Pepys

To mark the 350th anniversary of the foundation of the Royal Society this year a new display at London’s National Portrait Gallery –  Science, Religion and Politics: The Royal Society – celebrates a critical moment in the development of modern science. The display of 20 works shows the key figures in the early history of the Royal Society such as Sir Isaac Newton (left), Sir Christopher Wren (centre) and Samuel Pepys (right).

The Royal 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 drew on the ‘new philosophy’ devised by Sir Francis Bacon to pursue knowledge through the observation of nature, the systematic collection of data and the testing of hypotheses through experiments. Two years later Charles II made it his Royal Society and, in the 350 years since it was founded, its Fellows have been responsible for our understanding of gravity, evolution, the electron, the double helix and the internet and have made a huge contribution to the modern world.

Portraits of more recent fellows of the Royal Society are also currently on display at the Gallery. A portrait of the current President of the Royal Society, Lord Martin Rees by Benjamin Sullivan, and a portrait of President Elect of the Royal Society, Sir Paul Nurse by Jason Brooks can be viewed in the Contemporary Collection Lerner Galleries on the Ground Floor.

From 11 September to 5 December at the National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London WC2. Tel: (020) 7306 0055;;