We held a major conference in late April on the Royal Society in the 20th century – examining how the Society itself has developed and changed during the century and how it has shaped science within and beyond the UK. The conference was ground-breaking in several ways. First, it focused on the Society as an institution rather than the achievements of individual Fellows. Second, it dealt with the 20th century, where relatively few historians of science have ventured. Third, the conference brought together leading historians and research scientists, both as speakers and as participants. There’s something to be said for involving scientists in the history of science, especially when you are dealing with 20th century history.

The conference was the first academic output of the Society’s new Centre for History of Science, and the Centre itself is one of the legacies of the Society’s 350th celebrations. The Society’s 17th century origins have been much more intensively studied than its more recent history, so it was appropriate that we should launch the Centre by bringing the story towards the present. The 350th celebrations, after all, are as much about the present and future as about the distant past.

Papers from the conference are now available in a special issue of the Society’s journal Notes and Records, and you can also listen to podcasts of the sessions.

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Photographs taken at the conference by Jennifer Collins.

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