EDITORIAL

The Royal Society's Wider Role

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Science  25 Jun 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5986, pp. 1611
DOI: 10.1126/science.1193400

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Summary

The royal society is currently celebrating its 350th anniversary. In its earlier years, Christopher Wren, Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle, Samuel Pepys, and other “ingenious and curious gentlemen” met regularly in London. Their motto was to “accept nothing on authority.” They did experiments, peered through newly invented telescopes and microscopes, and dissected weird animals. But, as well as indulging their curiosity, they were immersed in the practical agenda of their era: improving navigation, exploring the New World, and rebuilding London after the Great Fire of 1666. Today, our horizons have hugely expanded. Earth no longer offers an open frontier but seems constricted and crowded—a “pale blue dot” in the immense cosmos. But the Royal Society's core values have enduring relevance. Today's scientists, like their forbears, probe nature and nature's laws by observation and experiment, but they should also engage broadly with the needs of society and with public affairs.