Royal Society


The Royal Society was founded on 28th. November 1660. The twelve founder members included Robert Boyle, William Petty, John Wilkins and Christopher Wren (four members of the Oxford Group).

To be more precise, 28th November was the occasion of a lecture at Gresham College by Christopher Wren, the Gresham Professor of Astronomy, ater which the ideas was discussed (in earnest).

Its roots can be traced back to a group that met in Gresham College in the 1640s (then possibly via Wilkin's group in Oxford).

The Society at Gresham had by this time petitioned King Charles II to recognise it and to make a royal grant of incorporation. The Royal Charter, which was passed by the Great Seal on 15 July 1662, created the Royal Society of London and the Royal Charter contained a provision to appoint a Curator of Experiments

The improvement in the situation in London, in particular troops which had been stationed in Gresham College now left, had allowed the scientists to begin meeting again in the College. On Wednesday 28 November 1660 a meeting in Gresham College constituted the Society for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematical Experimental Learning which they declared would promote experimental philosophy.

Hooke's early involvement

His name was first mentioned on 10th April 1661. In the articles of the he was mentioned in respect of work done in 1661 "An Attempt for the Explication of the Phaenomena, observable in an Experiment published by the Honourable Robert Boyle ". This concerned capillary action as mentioned in No. 35 in the experiments described in "The Spring of the Air" . On 10 April 1661 his paper was read to the Society in which he showed that the narrower the tube, the higher water rose in it.

Hooke soon became a member of the Royal Society, on 3rd. June 1663.

Curator of Experiments

Hooke was appointed to this position on 5 November 1662, proposed by Robert Moray. He was required to demonstrate three or four experiments at every meeting of the Society, something that was quite unrealistic and it is doubtful that anyone other than Hooke could have contemplated being able to provide. And he was to be required to undertake the work without any remuneration until the Society was in a position to pay him.

In fact Hooke reacted to the impossible task set him by producing a wealth of original ideas over the following 15 years. It would be fair to say that it was through Hooke's flood of ideas that the Society prospered, but equally the demands brought out Hooke's genius to the full. Although the demands meant that he never had time to develop his ideas over time as one would expect a leading scientist to do, on the other hand it seemed to suit his nature to have his mind jump for one half thought out idea to the next. He was elected to the Royal Society on 3 June 1663 and, although he was still receiving no payment, at least the Society was prepared to allow him to become a Fellow without paying the annual fees.

On 27th. July 1664 the Royal Society officially confirmed Hooke's financial situation wrt his position as curator and in addition secured for him accommodation in Gresham College. They agreed to pay Hooke a salary of 80 per year but shortly after this (in June 1664) they arranged the position of Cutlerian Lecturer in the Mechanical Arts for him at a salary of 50 per year (arranged by John Graunt and William Petty) and then reduced his salary as Curator of Experiments to 30 but gave him an appointment for life. From 1670 he was not paid for his duties as Cutlerian Lecturer and he was forced to go to court in a protracted process to get payment.

The Society's first publication was Sylva by John Evelyn, a book about tree propagation.

Great Fire

The Royal Society moved to Arundel House, on the Strand.

They returned to Gresham College in November 1673.

New Philosophical Society

Hooke resolved to leave society because of Oldenburg. 11/1/76 Hooke attempted to form a break away society.

This intention appears to have fizzled out when Oldenburg died

Secretary of the Royal Society

After the death of Henry Oldenburg (in September 1677), Hooke was elected on 25th. October 1677 to be one of the two secretaries of the Royal Society. He carried out this obligation in addition to his position as curator until 1682.

In 1679 his role in corresponding with scientist elsewhere was taken over by Gale in 1679. In 1682, he was essentially sacked from this post of secretary and replaced by Post.

In 1677 he published Lampas - particularly relevant given the nature of lighting in London's streets.

Curator again

In 1682

Grew became assistant curator. Grew was replaced by Thomas Gale

In 1685, a review by John Wallis of a work by Hevelius which contained criticism of Hooke was published in Philosophical Transactions. As a result the editors, Francis Aston and Dr Robert Plant, were forced to resign and replaced by Hoskins and Gale. Halley took over in the new position of Clerk to the Society with overall responsibility for publication of Philosophical Transactions


Presented in 1686 and published in 1687. The society were unable to finance publication because of financial difficulties due to poor sales of History of Fishes by Francis Willughby (1686).

Thomas Sprat

Read his history here : History of the Royal Society

The Society's motto is : Nullius in Verba

John Martyn was the Society's printer

Hooke submitted 21 papers to the Philosophical Transactions