List of presidents of the Royal Society

  (Redirected from President of the Royal Society)

The arms of the Royal Society

The President of the Royal Society (PRS) is the elected Head of the Royal Society of London who presides over meetings of the society's council.

After informal meetings at Gresham College, the Royal Society was officially founded on 28 November 1660 when a group of academics decided to found "a Colledge for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematicall Experimentall Learning",[1] acquiring a Royal Charter on 15 July 1662.[2] The Royal Charter nominated William Brouncker as president, and stipulated that future presidents should be elected by the Council and Fellows of the society at anniversary meetings each year on St. Andrew's Day (30 November).

The details of the presidency were described by the second Royal Charter, which did not set any limit on how long a president could serve. There were considerable fluctuations in the president's term of office until well into the 19th century. By then, sentiment had turned against electing wealthy amateurs solely because they might become patrons of the society, and in 1847 the society decided that Fellows would be elected solely on scientific merit. Since the 1870s it has been usual (with a few exceptions) for each President to serve for exactly five years. Under the current statutes, a president cannot serve for more than five years.[3] The current President is Venkatraman Ramakrishnan who began his 5-year tenure in 2015.[4]

Historically, the duties of the president have been both formal and social. Under the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, the President was one of only a few people authorised to certify that a particular experiment on an animal was justified, and in addition he acted as the government's chief (albeit informal) advisor for scientific matters. At the same time, the President was tasked with entertaining distinguished foreign guests and scientists.[5]

The changeover of presidents occurs on the Royal Society Anniversary Day, the weekday on or nearest to 30 November, after the departing President's Anniversary Address.[6]

Presidents of the Royal SocietyEdit

Years President Profession
1662–1677   The Viscount Brouncker Mathematician
1677–1680   Sir Joseph Williamson Civil servant and politician
1680–1682   Sir Christopher Wren Architect, astronomer and physicist
1682–1683   Sir John Hoskyns, Bt Lawyer
1683–1684   Cyril Wyche Lawyer and politician
1684–1686   Samuel Pepys Naval administrator and Member of Parliament
1686–1689   The Earl of Carbery Politician
1689–1690   The Earl of Pembroke Politician
1690–1695   Sir Robert Southwell Diplomat
1695–1698   Charles Montagu Poet and statesman
1698–1703   The Lord Somers Jurist and statesman
1703–1727   Sir Isaac Newton Physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian
1727–1741   Sir Hans Sloane, Bt Physician and collector
1741–1752   Martin Folkes Antiquarian
1752–1764   The Earl of Macclesfield Astronomer
1764–1768   The Earl of Morton Astronomer and representative peer
1768-1768   James Burrow Legal reporter
1768–1772   James West Politician and antiquarian
1772-1772   James Burrow Legal reporter
1772–1778   Sir John Pringle Physician
1778–1820   Sir Joseph Banks Naturalist and botanist
1820-1820   William Hyde Wollaston Chemist
1820–1827   Sir Humphry Davy, Bt Chemist and inventor
1827–1830   Davies Gilbert Engineer, author and politician
1830–1838   The Duke of Sussex Sixth son of George III of the United Kingdom
1838–1848   The Marquess of Northampton Nobleman
1848–1854   The Earl of Rosse Astronomer
1854–1858   The Lord Wrottesley Astronomer
1858–1861   Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie, Bt Physiologist and surgeon
1861–1871   Sir Edward Sabine Astronomer, geophysicist, ornithologist and explorer
1871–1873   Sir George Biddell Airy Mathematician and astronomer
1873–1878   Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker Botanist and explorer
1878–1883   William H. Spottiswoode Mathematician and physicist
1883–1885   Thomas Henry Huxley Biologist
1885–1890   Sir George Stokes, Bt Mathematician and physicist
1890–1895   The Lord Kelvin Mathematical physicist
1895–1900   The Lord Lister Surgeon
1900–1905   Sir William Huggins Astronomer
1905–1908   The Lord Rayleigh Physicist
1908–1913   Sir Archibald Geikie Geologist and writer
1913–1915   Sir William Crookes Chemist and physicist
1915–1920   Sir Joseph John Thomson Physicist
1920–1925   Sir Charles Scott Sherrington Neurophysiologist, histologist, bacteriologist, and pathologist
1925–1930   Sir Ernest Rutherford (Later the Lord Rutherford of Nelson) Physicist and chemist
1930–1935   Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins Biophysicist
1935–1940   Sir William Henry Bragg Physicist, chemist and mathematician
1940–1945   Sir Henry Hallett Dale Pharmacologist and physiologist
1945–1950   Sir Robert Robinson Organic chemist
1950–1955   The Lord Adrian Electrophysiologist
1955–1960   Sir Cyril Norman Hinshelwood Physical chemist
1960–1965   The Lord Florey Pharmacologist and pathologist
1965–1970   Patrick Blackett (The Lord Blackett after 1969) Physicist
1970–1975   Sir Alan Lloyd Hodgkin Physiologist and Biophysicist
1975–1980   The Lord Todd Biochemist
1980–1985   Sir Andrew Huxley Physiologist and biophysicist
1985–1990   Sir George Porter (The Lord Porter of Luddenham after 1990) Chemist
1990–1995   Sir Michael Atiyah Mathematician
1995–2000   Sir Aaron Klug Chemist and biophysicist
2000–2005   Sir Robert May (The Lord May of Oxford after 2001) Mathematical Biologist
2005–2010   The Lord Rees of Ludlow Cosmologist and astrophysicist
2010–2015   Sir Paul Nurse Geneticist and cell biologist
2015–present   Sir Venkatraman Ramakrishnan Biophysicist



  1. ^ "History of the Royal Society".
  2. ^ The Royal Society. "Royal Charters". Retrieved 14 March 2012.
  3. ^ "The role of President of the Royal Society". The Royal Society. Archived from the original on 9 June 2008. Retrieved 6 December 2009.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "The Presidency of the Royal Society of London". Science. American Association for the Advancement of Science. 6 (146): 442–3. 1885. Bibcode:1885Sci.....6..442.. doi:10.1126/science.ns-6.146.442. PMID 17749567.
  6. ^ "The Role of President of the Royal Society". The Royal Society. 2008. Retrieved 2 April 2008.