A Comparison of Scientific Advancement in Scottish Universities and the Royal Society

The seventeenth century was a period of exciting scientific growth in Scotland and England. However, the platforms for this progress were different for each kingdom: in Scotland, it was within its universities that new science first took hold, whereas in England, scientific advancement was largely occurring within the Royal Society founded in 1660. The fact that one of these platforms were universities, and the other a private club, led to key differences in the transition and outcomes of scientific growth in the two kingdoms. The universities being a center of scientific inquiry was both a hindrance, due to the ability of church and state to exert control, as well as a benefit to Scotland because it enabled new knowledge to spread to students. While science in the Scottish universities seems to have lagged behind the Royal Society in taking on the new science at first, it accounted for Scotland’s uniquely prominent Enlightenment in the proceeding century, marking a different experience than in England. Continue reading

The Sociohistorical Context of the Early Royal Society

Today, the Royal Society is known as a successful scientific organization that has produced some of the most noteworthy findings in the world, boasting members such as Robert Hooke, Sir Isaac Newton, and Ernest Rutherford. Yet it originally began as a group of just twelve men in 1660’s London, and back then its potential was not so obvious or well received. It emerged during the Restoration era during a period of political and social turmoil, which significantly influenced how the society went about forming and presenting itself, as well as on how the public received it. In an attempt to gain more support and clarify their goals, the society commissioned an apologia – basically a propaganda piece – to be written by one of its fellows, Thomas Sprat. It is likely that Sprat was only made a fellow for the sake of writing this work, as he was known to be a skillful writer, and made no further contributions to the society. So, how did the sociohistorical context of Restoration England shape the Royal Society in its early years? Continue reading