Today the Royal Society – Britain’s national academy of sciences – kicks off a year of celebrations to mark the 350th anniversary of its foundation by King Charles II in 1660.
The first event is the launch of an interactive look back at key scientific moments in its history, in the form of an interactive timeline called Trailblazing.
The 60 scientific papers, chosen from the Society’s Philosophical Transactions (said to be the world’s oldest continuously published scientific journal), include a gruesome account of an early blood transfusion in 1666, Isaac Newton’s landmark paper on light and colour, Watson and Crick’s description of the evidence for the structure of DNA, and Stephen Hawking’s early writing on black holes in space.
An anniversary celebration of such historical riches is a double-edged sword for an academy that is sometimes seen from the outside as the conservative bastion of the scientific establishment.
However Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society, is determined to show that, despite traditions such as black-tie summer soirees in its splendid premises on Carlton House Terrace, it is a progressive body looking to the future more than the past.
During 2010 there will be a series of forward looking events for professionals and the public, including a nine-day science festival on London’s Southbank.
At the same time it will be completing and opening the Kavli Royal Society International Centre for the Advancement of Science at Chicheley Hall near Newport Pagnell (left), and building up its successful new Science Policy Centre.