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Introduction : Constitutional Government
England during the Reign of Charles II Index
BRITAIN : ISLAND STATE TO EMPIRE
England during the Reign of Charles II
The Royal Society
This society started as a series of meetings held at Oxford University and, later, in Gresham College, Bishopsgate Street. Two of its founder members were Robert Hooke and Christopher Wren. It was granted a royal charter in 1660 by Charles II, and thus became known as the Royal Society. However, the Royal Society was never financed by the crown, unlike similar societies which started up in other European countries at that time.
The members of the Royal Society were intellectuals from both the arts and science. Science had only just emerged as a discipline in its own right and many famous scientists were members of the Royal Society. Robert Hooke studied optics and the properties of metals under tension. He developed a new, improved microscope, called the compound microscope. This enabled him to observe detail, such as that shown by his flea drawing (see page 40), which no-one had ever been able to see before. Robert Boyle studied atoms and the properties of gases. He developed the law, called Boyle's Law, which states that the volume of a gas is inversely proportional to its pressure.
Isaac Newton invented the mirror telescope to study the stars and planets. He was the first person to realise that light could be split into the colours of the rainbow. Newton's book The Principia, set down scientific laws about planetary movements and gravity, which are still the basics of modern physics today.
The Royal Society set up a commission to study and improve the English language. Famous poets and writers of the time, such as John Dryden and John Evelyn, participated. The Society boasts some very famous Presidents; Christopher Wren (1680), the diarist Samuel Pepys (1684) and Issac Newton (1703).
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