The creation of The Royal Society started in 1660 with a group of 12 natural philosophers and physicians. This starting group worked under a specified paradigm, or a so-called “invisible college”, and remained an unnamed society until after the group received royal approval following a lecture by Christopher Wren at Gresham College, where the group was founded on November 28th 1660, although not officially named. It is specially noted that King Charles II was a benefactor for the group, and with his approval received a royal charter to establish a name which first appeared in 1661 as The Royal Society. However, it took a second charter in 1663 for the name to stick, which now was extended to The Royal Society for Improving Natural Knowledge. From then on the group was formally named and has come to be the United Kingdom’s national science academy till this day.
“We are the independent scientific academy of the UK and the Commonwealth, dedicated to promoting excellence in science.” – Mission Statement of The Royal Society
Figure 1. The Society’s coat of arms contains a helmet that is barred, which is reserved for members of nobility. (Modified from The Royal Society).
“The Royal Society's motto 'Nullius in verba' is taken to mean 'take nobody's word for it'. It is an expression of the determination of Fellows to withstand the domination of authority and to verify all statements by an appeal to facts determined by experiment.” This motto has forced renowned scientist like Darwin and Einstein, and 8,000 other Fellows throughout the Society’s history to strive for factual evidence of the living world in attempts to understand it. Today this expression is carried on through current Fellows such as; Richard Dawkins, and Stephen Hawking.
Throughout the long and rich history of the Royal Society, there have been many accomplished and prestigious individuals. Each member is published and well respected in their particular field, and some stand out more than others. Ian S.E. Carmichael and Norman Leslie Falcon are two geologists that have won many awards and made significant strides in their field of geology.
Ian S.E. Carmichael (March 29, 1930 – August 26, 2011) - Highly respected and established figure in the Royal Society. Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1999, this honor is only given to those that have made a substantial contribution to their field of science. Ian was an igneous petrologist and volcanologist who made significant strides toward transforming igneous petrology from a science that was largely descriptive to one that is quantitative, inspiring multiple generations of students. Carmichael was a Cambridge University educated where he received his B.A. and M.A. in geology. He went on from Cambridge to complete his Ph.D from Imperial College London in 1954. In 1964 he moved to the United States and became a professor at the University of Berkley, where he remained until passing away in 2011.
Figure 2. Photo of Ian Carmichael. (Modified from Wikimeadia Commons).
At Berkeley, Carmichael was asking questions about the field that nobody else had really asked before. He wondered if the crystals in erupted lavas could be utilized to find out the temperature, pressure, and oxidation state in the magmatic lavas from which they formed. This required a thermodynamic approach, which Ian had little training in. To make up for this, he sat in on thermodynamic courses in the chemistry department, where he completed course work and exams beside some of his own students. Once he had a firm grasp on the concept of thermodynamics, he began fieldwork and experimentation.
Carmichael’s research efforts were critical for the development of thermodynamic models of crystal-liquid equilibrium, which is a key concept in modern igneous petrology. For his efforts, Carmichael was awarded numerous awards, such as the Bowen Award (American Geophysical Union), the Day Medal (Geological Society of America), the Murchison Medal (Geological Society of London), the Schlumberger Medal (Mineralogical Society of Great Britain), and the Roebling Medal (Mineralogical Society of America). Along with being a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, he was a Fellow in the Geochemical Society, the Geological Society of America, the Mineralogical Society of America and the American Geophysical Union.
Norman Leslie Falcon (May 29th, 1904 – May 31st, 1996) - British petroleum geologist and elected as Fellow of the Royal Society in 1960. Falcon spent his whole career with the British Petroleum Company and its predecessors, where his work in geology helped shape the company for decades to come. BP is a global industry, so it can be said that Falcon’s career had an influence on the rest of the world.
Figure 3. Photo of Norman Falcon. (Modified from Wikimeadia Commons).
Falcon was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied geology and received First Class Honors receiving his B.A. and M.A. Upon completing his schooling, Falcon joined the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) in late 1927, and he was sent to Persia to oversee three different oil wells. By 1930, Norman also took part in mapping the Zagros Mountains. He and a small team mapped the land and topography of nearly 90,000 square miles of mountainous terrain over a six-year span. These maps have stood the test of time and have been altered very little to this day. In 1938, Norman returned to Britain and began exploring the possibilities of onshore oil in the UK. Norman did not enjoy this work as much, and later in the year he returned to Iran to work.
Using new technology, aerial photography, Norman was asked to map parts of Iran once again. At this time, he learned to fly, and using his flying and aerial photography skills he joined the military and began working in the Aerial Photography Intelligence Service (APIS) for Military Intelligence. APIS provided crucial information for the Normandy invasion and by the time the war ended he had risen to the rank of Lt. Colonel and was in command of the Joint Services Aerial Photographic Intelligence Unit. Norman received a Bronze Star for his efforts in the war.
After the war, Norman returned to his work for the oil company, which changed it’s name to the British Petroleum Company. By 1955, Norman was promoted to Chief Geologist and it was during this time he was given a mandate to begin exploring other countries for oil. BP saw a decade of expansion to areas such as Qatar, Libya, Dubai, and Nigeria. By the time Norman retired in 1965, it was estimated that BP had control of 22% of the world’s oil reserves. He was awarded the Murchison Fund in 1952 and the Murchison Medal in 1963 for his efforts in the petroleum geology industry. In 1973 he was selected as an Honorary Member of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, an honor rarely given to a geologist from outside the United States.
For centuries now, the Royal Society has provided many opportunities intended to advance our understanding of the science of our world. Their scientific journal, Philosophical Transactions, is the oldest scientific journal still in continuous publication. It has provided an outlet for scientific information for hundreds of years. The royal society also provides grant money for innovative research and funding for scientific expeditions, like the one that confirmed Einstein’s theory. Additionally, the Royal Society sponsors many scientific awards encouraging others to continue advancing science as well.
Figure 4. Most recent issue of the Philosophical Transactions as of April 24, 2017. (Modified from The Royal Society).
Membership in the royal society is a high honor within the scientific community. As such, gaining entry to the society is no easy task. Each year an election takes place, and only 52 fellows and 10 foreign members may be inducted. To even be considered, a candidate must be nominated by two current fellows within the Royal Society. Following the example set by previous members of the Royal Society, no candidate will be considered without having contributed substantially to the improvement of "natural knowledge", or the natural sciences.
Figure 5. Darwin medal, which is awarded every other year. Most recent medal was awarded to Dame Caroline Dean for addressing questions about epigenetic mechansisms role with adaption. (Modified from The Royal Society).
The Royal Society has always been about advancing our collective knowledge of natural science for the betterment of mankind. Today their priorities include promoting, recognising, and supporting excellent work in science and fostering global scientific cooperation. They host regular scientific meetings based on proposals and offer many public events to make their scientific information available to everyone.
Figure 6. Cover photo of their scientific endeavour plan started in 2012. (Modified from The Royal Society).
Lange, Rebecca. "Ian S.E. Carmichael (1930-2011)."Geochemical Society. Oct. 2011. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
Martin, A.J., and P.B. Lapworth. "Norman Leslie Falcon."Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society.44 (1998): 161-74. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
Royal Society. "Elections." Web. 26 Apr. 2017.
Royal Society. "Events for scientists." Events for scientists. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.
Royal Society. "History." Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
Figure: 1, 4, 5, and 6 are from the Royal Society webpage. https://royalsociety.org/