336 pages, 22 b/w illustrations, 6 tables
The Royal Society is one of the world's oldest and most prestigious scientific bodies, but what has it done in recent decades? Increasingly marginalised by postwar developments and the reforms of civil science in the 1960s, the Society was at risk of resting on its laurels. Instead, it found ways of exploiting its unique networks of scientific talent to promote science. Creating opportunities for outstanding individuals to establish and advance research careers, influencing policymaking at national and international levels, and engaging with the public outside the world of professional science, the Society gave fresh expression to the values that had shaped its long history. Through unparalleled access to the Society's modern archives and other archival sources, interviews with key individuals and extensive inside knowledge, Peter Collins shows how the Society addressed the challenges posed by the astounding growth of science and by escalating interactions between science and daily life.
"This is a scholarly account of the Royal Society's achievements in promoting science in the UK and the rest of the world since 1960. Peter Collins expertly summarises and analyses the major activities of the Society focusing on where these had the greatest impact on science. This is a great read and is thoroughly recommended."
– Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society
"The Royal Society is a venerable, elite and prestigious organisation that has played a remarkable and often crucial role in the development of science policy and support in the years since the major economic and political crises of the 1960s. That more recent track record has never before been subject to properly detailed historical analysis. An authority both on the workings of the Royal Society and on the changing character of public science and its significance, Peter Collins offers an unprecedentedly well-documented and frank account of the way the Society changed in key periods of transformations in the sciences, their private and public funding, and their place in the social and economic worlds [...] Using unrivalled access to the principal personalities and to the records of the Society's activities, [he] has produced a book that will be valuable reading for anyone concerned with the political and public condition of British science and its development in the past five decades."
– Simon Schaffer, University of Cambridge
1. Presidential politics and postwar priorities
2. Running UK science?
3. Supporting individual researchers
4. The applications of science
5. Defending the science base
6. Doing science publicly
7. Science and international politics
8. Keeping the door open
9. Europe: competition and collaboration
10. Doing science globally
11. Looking outward
Annex: running the Society
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Peter Collins worked at the Royal Society from 1981 to 2013, responsible primarily for the science policy function and latterly for governance and for history of science. These roles included substantial engagement in international affairs and in often controversial public debates. As a long-term core member of senior staff, he was closely involved in development and delivery of the Society's strategy, and had a ringside seat at many key events in this period. Before joining the Society's staff, he studied chemistry at Oxford and took a PhD in history of science at Leeds. In addition to many Royal Society reports, he has published on the history of the British Association and of the Royal Society, including a volume of conference proceedings on the Society in the twentieth century.