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tions of science and inductive enquiry. From this time the taste for physical investigations steadily increased. “The Academia del Cimento,” of Florence, established in 1657, is stated to have been the first association which cultivated science with success, and although it maintained only a few years' vigorous existence, it published some valuable transactions, including papers by Torricelli and others of note. Its principles will be understood from the fundamental rule as stated by Hallam, that “all that was required as an article of faith was the abjuration of all faith, and a resolution to enquire into truth without regard to any previous sect of philosophy.”
France was somewhat later than England in the establishment of scientific societies. It is true, that the institution first founded as “the French Academy,” received its charter in 1635, but by this it was enjoined “to meddle with nothing but the embellishment and improvement of the French language." It was afterwards incorporated with the Academy of Sciences, established in Paris, in 1666, and which, subsequently, under a new charter, received considerable powers and endowments.
Two unsuccessful attempts were made here under the patronage of James and Charles I. respectively, to establish a scientific association; the first, a "Royal Academy, or College of Honour," was proposed in 1617, and again in 1635 there was projected the “Museum Minervæ,” which was to have, among other Professors, one for Physiology, Anatomy, and Medicine. But the civil troubles were pressing, and this idea was not carried out.
From the year 1645, however, a company of scientific men met from time to time, either at private houses, at Gresham College, at Oxford, or elsewhere, as the varying fortunes of the civil war allowed, until its conclusion, when they were formally established in 1660, and incorporated by charter in July, 1662, as “The Royal Society.” The early history of the great parent of all the scientific societies of England is of particular interest to us, from the part our profession took in its commencement, and it is remarked by Weld how large a number of the founders belonged to medicine. Although the College of Physicians was established in the year 1518, and lectures on Anatomy were instituted some twenty years later, and notwithstanding also the discovery of Harvey had caused no small excitement in the medical world, and many of the physicians of the day were earnest, intelligent men, and addicted to scientific pursuits, yet more than a century elapsed from the establishment of the Royal Society before any association for the especial cultivation of medicine was instituted in London. During all this time the papers on medicine form an integral part of the philosophical transactions; indeed, including those on Anatomy and Physiology, up to the year 1848 they amount to 1,020, or nearly a fifth of the whole list. It must be confessed that the earlier papers on medicine generally betray great credulity and superstition, and are of little scientific value; “sympathetic powders,” and other nostrums, magnetic cures," monstrous births,” and “curious experiments," without object or meaning, form the staple of their
In 1664 several committees were appointed, among which were the Anatomical, and the Chemical, and these were to comprise all the physicians of the society. The meetings were at this time held at Gresham College, and here, in 1666, Lower's experiments on Transfusion were successfully repeated, and again in the year following. As an example of the state of philosophy, even among the learned, it appears that these experiments re-kindled the idea of an elixir of life.
Sir Isaac Newton was elected in 1671, and his papers began to appear (No. 80) shortly afterwards. It was in 1686, however, that the “Principia
Principia” were completed, and the entire work published at the expense of the Royal Society. Mr. Weld thus expresses his views upon the subject : "Fortunate, indeed, was it for science that such a body as the Royal Society existed, to whom Newton could make his scientific communications, otherwise it is very possible that the ‘Principia’ would never have seen the light." Likely enough, certainly, considering that on his election the author was excused the customary shilling a week which the Fellows contributed to the expenses. Time will not allow me to allude to the important communications which were given to the world by the Royal Society from this time to Sir Isaac's death, especially in Mathematics, Astronomy, Optics, and Meteorology. Before the end of the century the cities of Edinburgh and Dublin each possessed a Philosophical Institution, and Newton strongly recommended that societies, with a similar object, should be established in the provincial towns. Accordingly we find their existence at Bristol, Peterborough, and Spalding ; the “Gentleman's Society" of the latter published some interesting transactions, and maintained its existence until a few
Another important aid to the rapid and sound advance which
scientific investigations were now making, consisted in the improvements effected in philosophical instruments, both regards their adaptation to the required object, and their superior and more delicate workmanship, in the making and polishing of lenses, the fitting of steel and brass work, &c. Much of this improvement was, no doubt, owing to the existence of a society, the Mathematical, not much known, but established in Spitalfields in 1717, and maintained until 1845, when it was merged in the the Astronomical Society. Principally consisting of tradesmen, and other practical persons, it possessed a good collection of instruments, which were lent to the members, and some of the rules were in quaint accordance with their studies, as for example, the number of members was limited to the square of seven. The Royal Society took advantage of these improvements, and gave a great impulse to Meteorology in 1725, by forwarding a supply of barometers and thermometers to several of their correspondents abroad, with a request for the adoption of regular observations.
The bad ventilation of jails, and the mortality occurring in them from fever, &c., led, in 1750, to the appointment of a committece of the Royal Society for investigating the subject. By the means adopted, in accordance with their recommendations, the deaths in Newgate diminished from seven and eight per per week to two in the month.
While the several departments of science were thus developing under the fostering care of the Royal Society, another class of associations had been growing up so as to become a marked feature in literary and scientific circles. I allude to the prevalence of Clubs, and Coffee House Societies. Certain clubs had indeed
existed much earlier ; thus, in the fourth Henry's time, there was “la Court de bone Companie,” there was the “Friday Street Club ” of Sir W. Raleigh, and the famous “ Mermaid,” in Bread Street, of which Shakespeare, Beaumont, Fletcher, and others were members. Ben. Johnson patronised, and is said to have founded, “ The Devil,” in Fleet Street ; and “The Civil Club,” established 1669, in Water Lane, exists to this day. But in the first half of the eighteenth century these companionships were in their zenith, and it was customary for men of business, letters, and professions, all the world in fact, to make of these places a rendezvous. Dryden, Addison, Steele, Swift, Pope—and of our own profession, Arbuthnot, Garth, Mead, Radcliffe, and others, were well-known faces at the “ Kit-Kat,” “ The Brothers,” “Tom's," “Will's," and "Button's," westward, and “Garraway's" in the City; and at these, professional appointments were made
and much business transacted.
Dr. Cooke states in his life of
Sir W. Blizard, that our first president was the last physician who could be seen (professionally) at a tavern.
Let us not regard these associations as merely frivolous or social, and as having no bearing upon science. Political and philosophical, not less than scientific ideas, were changing. Old things were passing away, and all was becomming new. The revolution had given freedom of expression, as well as of thought, on all subjects. Even the dress of men's ideas had changed. The euphemism of the Elizabethan diction, the pedantry of the Stuarts, the formal precision of the Commonwealth, and the heavy pomp of Clarendon, had successively yielded, and eventually merged in the graceful periods and smooth flowing style of Pope,