Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Thomas Sprat's History of the Royal Society of London

Click here to download the powerpoint for this lecture


Why are the Royal Society meetings free from disputes about causes, according to Sprat?

What are the advantages of doing natural philosophy as a group rather than as an isolated individual?

How do the Fellows strike the right balance between dogmatism and skepticism?

According to Sprat, how does experimental natural philosophy benefit true religion?

Essential readings

Sprat, Thomas. The History of the Royal Society of London, for the Improving of Natural Knowledge (London, 1667), pp. 91-92 and 95-111 (there is interesting material in the rest of the pdf, if you want to keep reading).

Wood, P. B. “Methodology and Apologetics: Thomas Sprat’s ‘History of the Royal Society.’” The British Journal for the History of Science 13.1 (1980): 1–26.

Dear, Peter. "Extra-Curricular Activities: New Homes for Natural Knowledge". In Revolutionizing the Sciences.

Further Reading

Royal Society of London

Hall, Marie Boas. Promoting Experimental Learning: Experiment and the Royal Society 1660-1727. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Hunter, Michael. ‘Promoting the New Science: Henry Oldenburg and the Early Royal Society’. History of Science 26 1988: 165–81.

Hunter, Michael. Establishing the New Science: The Experience of the Early Royal Society. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1989.

Hunter, Michael. ‘The Social Basis and Changing Fortunes of an Early Scientific Institution: An Analysis of the Membership of the Royal Society, 1660-1685’. Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 31, no. 1 (July 1976): 9–114.

Hunter, Michael. ‘Scientific Change: Its Setting and Stimuli’. In A Companion to Stuart Britain, edited by Barry Coward, 214–29. John Wiley & Sons, 2003.

Lynch, William. Solomon’s Child: Method in the Early Royal Society of London. Stanford University Press, 2001.

Lynch, William. ‘A Society of Baconians? The Collective Development of Francis Bacon’s Thought’. In Francis Bacon and the Refiguring of Early Modern Thought: Essays to Commemorate The Advancement of Learning (1605-2005), edited by Julie Robin Solomon and Catherine Gimelli Martin, 173–202. Ashgate Publishing, 2005.

Syfret, R. H. ‘Some Early Critics of the Royal Society’. Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 8, no. 1 (1950): 20–64.

Webster, C. ‘The Origins of the Royal Society’. History of Science 6 (1967): 106.

Francis Bacon's vision of science

Cambridge Companion to Bacon, especially the chapters by Sargent, Rossi and Pérez-Ramos

Gaukroger, Stephen. Francis Bacon and the Transformation of Early-Modern Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Martin, Julian. Francis Bacon, the State, and the Reform of Natural Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Scientific Academies and Societies

Boschiero, Luciano. Experiment and Natural Philosophy in Seventeenth-Century Tuscany: The History of the Accademia Del Cimento. Australasian Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, v. 21. Dordrecht: Springer Verlag, 2007.

Hahn, Roger. The Anatomy of a Scientific Institution: the Paris Academy of Sciences, 1666-1803. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971.

Moran, Bruce T. 'Courts and Academies', in CHS3.

McClellan, James. Science Reorganized: Scientific Societies in the Eighteenth Century. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985 - the early chapters deal with seventeenth-century societies and academies

Sturdy, David. Science and Social Status: The Members of the Académie des Sciences, 1666-1750. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1995 - the early chapters are a useful account of the political and social background to the creation of the Academy, and of its institutional structure in its early years

Other scientific institutions

Feingold, Mordechai. The Mathematicians’ Apprenticeship: Science, Universities and Society in England 1560-1640. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

Feingold, Mordechai, and Víctor Navarro Brotons, eds. Universities and Science in the Early Modern Period. Dordrecht: Springer, 2006.

Gascoigne, John. ‘A Reappraisal of the Role of the Universities in the Scientific Revolution’. In Reappraisals of the Scientific Revolution, edited by David C. Lindberg and Robert S. Westman, 207–60. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Harris, Steven. 'Networks of Travel, Correspondence and Exchange,' in CHS3.

Sprat frontispiece

Frontispiece of Thomas Sprat, History of the Royal Society of London (London, 1667)