Royal Society of Edinburgh
Arms of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
The Royal Society building, at the junction of George Street and Hanover Street in the New Town
|Motto||Societas Regalis Edinburgi|
|Founder(s)||Colin Maclaurin and Alexander Monro, primus (instrumental in founding the Philosophical Society of Edinburgh)
William Cullen, Alexander Monro, secundus and William Robertson (instrumental in obtaining the royal charter)
|Established||1737 – diverged from the Royal Medical Society
1783 – received royal charter
|Mission||Scotland's National Academy|
|Focus||science and technology
|President||Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell|
|Chief Executive||Dr William Duncan|
|Key people||Prof Alan Alexander, General Secretary|
|Members||1563 Fellows, including 66 Honorary Fellows and 65 Corresponding Fellows|
|Subsidiaries||RSE Scotland Foundation
RSE Young Academy of Scotland
|Owner||Registered charity No. SC000470|
|Formerly called||Philosophical Society of Edinburgh|
|Location||New Town, Edinburgh, Scotland|
|Address||22–26 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2PQ|
The Royal Society of Edinburgh is Scotland's national academy of science and letters. It is a registered charity, operating on a wholly independent and non-party-political basis and providing public benefit throughout Scotland. Established in 1783, it has since then drawn upon the strengths and expertise of its Fellows, of which there are currently more than 1500.
The Society covers a broader selection of fields than the Royal Society of London including literature and history. Unlike similar organisations in the rest of the UK, the Fellowship includes people from a wide range of disciplines – science & technology, arts, humanities, medicine, social science, business and public service. This breadth of expertise makes the Society unique in the UK.
At the start of the 18th century, Edinburgh's intellectual climate fostered many clubs and societies (see Scottish Enlightenment). Though there were several that treated the arts, sciences and medicine, the most prestigious was the Society for the Improvement of Medical Knowledge, commonly referred to as the Medical Society of Edinburgh, co-founded by the mathematician Colin Maclaurin in 1731.
Maclaurin was unhappy with the specialist nature of the Medical Society, and in 1737 a new, broader society, the Edinburgh Society for Improving Arts and Sciences and particularly Natural Knowledge was split from the specialist medical organisation, which then went on to become the Royal Medical Society.
The cumbersome name was changed the following year to the Edinburgh Philosophical Society. With the help of University of Edinburgh professors like Joseph Black, William Cullen and John Walker, this society transformed itself into the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1783 and in 1788 it issued the first volume of its new journal Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
As the end of the century drew near, the younger members such as Sir James Hall embraced Lavoisier's new nomenclature and the members split over the practical and theoretical objectives of the society. This resulted in the founding of the Wernerian Society (1808–58), a parallel organisation that focused more upon natural history and scientific research that could be used to improve Scotland's weak agricultural and industrial base. Under the leadership of Prof. Robert Jameson, the Wernerians first founded Memoirs of the Wernerian Natural History Society (1808–21) and then the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal (1822), thereby diverting the output of the Royal Society's Transactions. Thus, for the first four decades of the 19th century, the RSE's members published brilliant articles in two different journals. By the 1850s, Jameson and his partner Sir David Brewster lost their influence and the society once again could unify its membership under one journal.
During the 19th century the society produced many scientists whose ideas laid the foundation of the modern sciences. From the 20th century onward, the society functioned not only as a focal point for Scotland's eminent scientists, but also the arts and humanities. It still exists today and continues to promote original research in Scotland.
The current president is Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell.
The Royal Society has been housed in a succession of locations:
- 1783–1807 – College Library, University of Edinburgh
- 1807–1810 – Physicians' Hall, George Street; the home of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
- 1810–1826 – 40–42 George Street; shared with the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland from 1813
- 1826–1908 – the Royal Institution (now called the Royal Scottish Academy Building) on the Mound; shared, at first, with the Board of Manufactures (the owners), the Institution for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts in Scotland and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
- 1908–09 – University premises at High School Yards
- 1909–present – 22–24 George Street, purchased from the Edinburgh Life Assurance Company with the assistance of a grant of £25,000 from the Scottish Office
List of Presidents of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
- The Duke of Buccleuch (1783–1812)
- Sir James Hall (1812–1820)
- Sir Walter Scott (1820–1832)
- Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane (1832–1860)
- The Duke of Argyll (1860–1864)
- Principal Sir David Brewster (1864–1868)
- Sir Robert Christison (1869–1873)
- Sir William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) (1873–1878)
- Rev Philip Kelland (1878–1879)
- Lord Moncreiff of Tullibole (1879–1884)
- Thomas Stevenson (1884–1885)
- Sir William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) (1886–1890)
- Sir Douglas Maclagan (1890–1895)
- Lord Kelvin (1895–1907)
- Principal Sir William Turner (1908–1913)
- Professor James Geikie (1913–1915)
- Dr John Horne (1915–1919)
- Professor Frederick Orpen Bower (1919–1924)
- Sir Alfred Ewing (1924–1929)
- Sir Edward Sharpey Schafer (1929–1934)
- Sir D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson (1934–1939)
- Professor Sir Edmund Whittaker (1939–1944)
- Professor Sir William Wright Smith (1944–1949)
- Professor James Kendall (1949–1954)
- Professor James Ritchie (1954–1958)
- Professor J. Norman Davidson (1958–1959)
- Professor Sir Edmund Hirst (1959–1964)
- Professor J. Norman Davidson (1964–1967)
- Professor Norman Feather (1967–1970)
- Sir Maurice Yonge (1970–1973)
- Lord Cameron (1973–1976)
- Professor Robert Allan Smith (1976–1979)
- Sir Kenneth Blaxter (1979–1982)
- Sir John Atwell (1982–1985)
- Sir Alwyn Williams (1985–1988)
- Professor Charles Kemball (1988–1991)
- Professor Sir Alastair Currie (1991–1993)
- Dr Thomas L. Johnston (1993–1996)
- Professor Malcolm Jeeves (1996–1999)
- Sir William Stewart (1999–2002)
- Lord Sutherland of Houndwood (2002–2005)
- Sir Michael Atiyah (2005–2008)
- Lord Wilson of Tillyorn (2008–2011)
- Sir John Peebles Arbuthnott (2011–October 2014)
- Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell (October 2014-2017)
Medals and Awards
The Royal Medals are awarded annually, preferably to people with a Scottish connection, who have achieved distinction and international repute in either Life Sciences, Physical and Engineering Sciences, Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences or Business and Commerce. The Medals were instituted in 2000 by Queen Elizabeth II, whose permission is required to make a presentation. 
Past winners: Source: Royal Society of Edinburgh
- 2014: Professor W.B. Kibble and Professor Richard G.M. Morris 
- 2013: Sir John Cadogan, Professor Michael Ferguson and Sir Ian Wood 
- 2012: Professor David Milne and Sir Edwin Southern 
- 2011: Baroness Helena Kennedy, Noreen Murray and Professor Desmond Smith 
- 2010: Professor Sir Fraser Stoddart and Dr James MacMillan
- 2009: Sir James Mirrlees, Professor Wilson Sibbett and Professor Karen Vousden
- 2008: Professor Roger Fletcher, Right Reverend Richard Holloway and Professor Sir David Lane
- 2007: Professor Sir David Carter, Professor John David M H Laver and Sir Thomas F W McKillop
- 2006: Sir John M. Ball and Sir David Jack
- 2005: Sir David Edward and Professor William G. Hill
- 2004: Sir Philip Cohen, Sir Neil MacCormick and Professor Robin Milner
- 2003: Sir Paul Nurse, Lord Mackay of Clashfern and Sir Michael Atiyah
- 2002: Professor Sir Alfred Cuschieri, Professor Sir Alan Peacock and Professor John R Mallard
- 2001: Professor Sir James Black, Professor Tom Devine and Professor A Ian Scott
- 2000: Professor Sir Kenneth Murray, Professor Peter Higgs and The Rt. Hon The Lord Perry of Walton
Lord Kelvin Medal
The Lord Kelvin Medal is the Senior Prize for Physical, Engineering and Informatics Sciences. It is awarded annually to a person who has achieved distinction nationally and internationally, and who has contributed to wider society by the accessible dissemination of research and scholarship. Winners receive a silver medal and are required to deliver a public lecture in Scotland. The award is named after William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin (1824–1907), who was a famous mathematical physicist and engineer, and Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Glasgow. Senior Prize-winners are required to have a Scottish connection but can be based anywhere in the world.
The Keith medal has been historically awarded every four years for a scientific paper published in the society's scientific journals, preference being given to a paper containing a discovery. It is awarded alternately for papers on Mathematics or Earth and Environmental Sciences. The medal was founded in 1827 as a result of a bequest by Alexander Keith of Dunottar, the first Treasurer of the Society.
Makdougall Brisbane Prize
The Makdougall Brisbane Prize has been awarded biennially, preferably to people working in Scotland with no more than fifteen years postdoctoral experience, for particular distinction in the promotion of scientific research and is awarded sequentially to research workers in the Physical Sciences, Engineering Sciences and Biological Sciences. The prize was founded in 1855 by Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane, the long-serving fourth President of the Society. 
- 1859 - Roderick Murchison
- 1866-68 - Alexander Crum Brown and Thomas Richard Fraser (joint)
- 1870-72 - George Allman
- 1874-76 - Alexander Buchan
- 1876-78 - Archibald Geikie
- 1878-80 - Charles Piazzi Smyth
- 1880-82 - James Geikie
- 1884-86 - Sir John Murray
- 1886-88 - Archibald Geikie (only Fellow twice awarded the prize)
- 1888-90 - Ludwig Becker
- 1892-94 - James Walker
- 1894-96 - John Gray McKendrick
- 1898-1900 - Ramsay Traquair
- 1902-04 - John Dougall
- 1904-06 - Jakob Karl Ernst Halm
- 1908-10 - Ernest Wedderburn
- 1916-18 - Abercrombie Lawson
- 1918-20 - Joseph Wedderburn
- 1920-22 - William Thomas Gordon
- 1922-24 - Herbert Stanley Allen
- 1927 - Charles Morley Wenyon protozoologist
- 1930-32 - Alexander Aitken
- 1934-36 - Ernest Masson Anderson
- 1936-38 - David Meredith Seares Watson
- 1938-40 - Edward Lindsay Ince
- 1940-42 - William Wright Smith
- 1942-44 - Max Born
- 1952-54 - William Charles Osman Hill
- 1954-56 - Maurice Yonge
- 1964-66 - Daniel Edwin Rutherford
- 1966-68 - James Norman Davidson
- 1968-70 - Norman Feather
- 1972-74 - David Paton Cuthbertson
- 1999 - Anne Neville
- 2001 - Dario Alessi
- "The Royal Society of Edinburgh". School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrews. Retrieved 22 September 2010.
- "Learned Journals". The Royal Society of Edinburgh. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
- Waterston, Charles D (1996). "The Home of the Royal Society of Edinburgh" (PDF). Extracted from the Year Book, R.S.E., 1996. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
- "Royal Medals". Royal Society of Scotland. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- "Academic excellence recognised as RSE announces Royal Medals and Prizes" (PDF). RSE. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- "New RSE Royal Medal lists and Prize Winners Announced" (PDF). RSE. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- "Royal Medals 2012" (PDF). RSE. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- "HRH The Duke of Edinburgh to present RSE Royal Medals to Baroness Helena Kennedy and Professor Desmond Smith" (PDF). RSE. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- "Keith Medal". Royal Society of Scotland. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- "Makdougall Brisbane Prize". Royal Society of Scotland. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
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