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Like-minded fellows

Some 350 years ago, a dozen men meeting in the City of London heard a lecture by a young astronomer named Christopher Wren, who would later become the architect of St Paul’s Cathedral. They determined to gather on a regular basis. Inspired by the writing of Sir Francis Bacon, a 17th-century statesman and philosopher who argued that knowledge could be gained by testing ideas through experiments, the group began to meet every week to discuss scientific matters and witness experiments conducted by its members. Two years later, Charles II granted the society its royal charter; the Royal Society gave birth to modern science.

“Seeing Further: The Story of Science and the Royal Society” celebrates the organisation’s anniversary in a collection of essays by academics and writers introduced by Bill Bryson, a bestselling author. Richard Fortey of the Natural History Museum muses on the importance of collections, Paul Davies of Arizona State University questions the likelihood of life being found in places other than Earth and Richard Dawkins halts, no doubt temporarily, his bashing of religionists to enthuse about Darwin and natural selection.
 
 

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