Royal Microscopical Society

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Royal Microscopical Society
RMS Logo Screen JPG.jpg
FoundedSeptember 1839, Royal Charter in 1866[1]
TypeProfessional Organisation and Registered Charity
Registration no.241990
Purposeto promote the advancement of microscopical science by such means as the discussion and publication of research into improvements in the construction and mode of application of microscopes and into those branches of science where microscopy is important.
  • 37-38 St. Clements Street,
    Oxford, England, OX4 1AJ[2]
Coordinates51°45′01″N 1°14′32″W / 51.750374°N 1.2422313°W / 51.750374; -1.2422313Coordinates: 51°45′01″N 1°14′32″W / 51.750374°N 1.2422313°W / 51.750374; -1.2422313
OriginsMicroscopical Society of London
Area served
UK, Worldwide
Key people
President Grace Burke
Vice President Peter O'Toole
Vice President Susan Anderson[4]
Patrons:[5] *Baroness Finlay of Llandaff *Baroness Brown of Cambridge
£1,639,504 (year ending Dec 2015[2]

The Royal Microscopical Society (RMS) is a learned society for the promotion of microscopy. It was founded in 1839 as the Microscopical Society of London making it the oldest organisation of its kind in the world. In 1866, the society gained its royal charter and took its current name. Founded as a society of amateurs, its membership consists of individuals of all skill levels in numerous related fields from throughout the world.[6] Every year since 1852, the society has published its own scientific journal, the Journal of Microscopy, which contains peer-reviewed papers and book reviews. The society is a registered charity that is dedicated to advancing science, developing careers and supporting wider understanding of science and microscopy through its Outreach activities.

Probably the society's greatest contribution is its standardised 3x1 inches microscope glass slides in 1840, which are still the most widely used size today and known as the "RMS standard".[7]

The Royal Microscopical Society is a member of the Foundation for Science and Technology, the Biosciences Federation, the European Microscopy Society and the International Federation of Societies for Microscopy.


Alfred William Bennett, botanist, publisher, early vice-president and editor of the Journal of Microscopy from 1897 until his death in 1902.[8]

On 3 September 1839 a meeting of 17 gentlemen including physicist Joseph Jackson Lister, photography pioneer Joseph Bancroft Reade, the botanists Edwin John Quekett and Richard Kippist,[9][10] and artist and inventor Cornelius Varley,[11][12][verification needed] was held at Quekett's residence at 50 Wellclose Square[13] "to take into consideration the propriety of forming a society for the promotion of microscopical investigation, and for the introduction and improvement of the microscope as a scientific instrument",[1][14][15][16][17] following a decade of great advances in the field of microscopy.[13] At this gathering it was agreed that a society should be founded and a committee appointed. It was named the Microscopical Society of London and a constitution was drawn up.[10] On 20 December 1839, a public meeting was held at the Horticultural Society's rooms at 21 Regents Street in London. At the convention, Professor Richard Owen was elected president, along with Nathaniel Ward as Treasurer, and Farre as Secretary.[10] A Council was also appointed, consisting of J.S. Bowerbank, Thomas Edwards, Dr F. Farre, George Gwilt, George Jackson, Dr John Lindley, George Loddiges, the Rev. C. Pritchard, Edwin John Quekett, M.J. Rippingham, Richard Horsman Solly and Robert Warington. With them, forty-five men were enrolled as members.[10]

At its foundation, the Society acquired the best microscopes then obtainable from the three leading makers, Powell & Lealand, Ross, and Smith.[18] The first president of the society was palaeontologist Sir Richard Owen who is best known for coining the word "dinosaur" and for his role in creation London's Natural History Museum.[19] It was renamed the Royal Microscopical Society in 1866, when the Society received its Royal Charter under the Presidency of James Glaisher.[13] Its governing documents are its Charter and By-laws.

In 1870, then President, the Rev. Joseph Bancroft Reade, in his maiden speech revealed that he had suggested adding the suffix "-al" to the name of the fledgling society to prevent "the possibility of ourselves being mistaken for microscopic objects".[13]

John Thomas Quekett (brother of co-founder Edwin John Quekett) served as the society's secretary from 1841 to 1860.[17] Distinguished botanist Dukinfield Henry Scott served as president of the society between 1904 and 1906[20]

In 1885, botanist and women's rights campaigner Marian Farquharson, became the first female Fellow of the Society. Although not permitted to attend meetings, her greatest contribution to the scientific community was of her campaign in gaining women rights to full fellowship of learned societies. In 1900 she sent a letter addressed to the Royal Society and the Linnean Society petitioning that "duly qualified women should be eligible for ordinary Fellowship and, if elected, there should be no restriction forbidding their attendance at meetings". Both societies refused her requests to join, eventually the Linnean Society elected her as a fellow in 1908.[21]

In September 1989, Royal Mail released a set of four stamps to mark the celebration of the Society's 150th anniversary entitled "Microscopes", one of which being the snowflake, its own logo.[22][23]

In 2017, the society appointed two patrons, Baroness Brown of Cambridge and Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, both of whom are members of the House of Lords.[5]


RMS members come from a wide range of backgrounds within the biological and physical sciences.

After three years of continuous Ordinary Membership, members are invited to become a Fellow of the Society after a set number of criteria have been met, which allows for individuals to benefit from voting and election rights as well as the use of the post-nominal letters FRMS after their names.[24]

Honorary Fellows[edit]

The society elects a maximum of 65 persons as Honorary Fellows.[25][26]


Journal of Microscopy[edit]

Illustration of Professor Henfreys paper on some Fresh-water Con-fervoid Algae, new to Britain (1853)

The Journal of Microscopy provides a forum for publication, discussion, and education for scientists and technologists who use any form of microscopy or image analysis.[27] This includes technology and applications in physics, chemistry, material and biological sciences. The journal publishes review articles, original research papers, short communications, and letters to the editor, covering all aspects of microscopy.[28] It is published on behalf of the Society by Wiley-Blackwell.[29]

infocus Magazine[edit]

infocus Magazine is the society's magazine for members. It provides a common forum for scientists and technologists from all disciplines which use any form of microscope, including all branches of microscopy and microbeam analysis. infocus features articles on microscopy related topics, techniques and developments, reports on RMS events, book reviews, news and much more. Published four times a year, infocus is free to members.

Outreach activities[edit]

The society is heavily involved with outreach activities, particularly those aimed at children, where the aim is to interest them in science as a whole as opposed to simply lab work.[30] In late 2015, the society was one of many "subject experts" consulted by awarding organisations as a part of a consultation by the Department for Education regarding reforms to the course content of the subject of Geology at GCE Advanced Level (A-level) in the national curriculum. Other advising parties included British Geological Survey, Natural History Museum and the Royal School of Mines.[31]

Microscope Activity Kit Scheme[edit]

One such method is through the use of the Microscope Activity Kit Scheme starting in March 2011, a free scheme sending fully equipped Kits of microscopes and ready-to-go activities to Primary Schools throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland for a term at a time. By December 2014, the Kits had gone from 2 to 50 and had been used by over 20,000 children in the UK.[32]

RMS Diploma[edit]

The RMS Diploma, launched in 2012 to replace the former RMS DipTech qualification, aims to help microscopists advance in their careers by improving and refining their skills to gain a distinguished qualification. The Diploma from the Royal Microscopical Society is attained via a flexible portfolio-based course of study that is designed by the candidate with the assistance of their line-manager, and with input from existing Fellows of the Society. This approach ensures that the study is both challenging and rewarding whilst fitting with, and complementing, the candidate's existing employment.[1]

Courses and conferences[edit]

Each year the RMS hosts a programme full of meetings, courses and conferences. These events provide opportunities for keeping abreast of the very latest developments and attract speakers of the highest quality and delegates active in all areas of science from forensics to flow cytometry, live cell imaging to SPM.

Gender equality[edit]

Since 2017 the RMS website has hosted a database of women working in microscopy to aid conference and meeting organisers in creating more diverse speaker line-ups for events. Female scientists can either add themselves to the database or be nominated for inclusion.[33]


  1. ^ a b c Study Guide - Diploma of the Royal Microscopical Society. Royal Microscopical Society. 2010. p. 2. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d "Financial history - 241990 - ROYAL MICROSCOPICAL SOCIETY". Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  3. ^ "REPORT AND FINANCIAL STATEMENTS For the year ended 31 December 2015" (PDF). 31 December 2015. p. 5 (7). Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  4. ^ "Council". Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  5. ^ a b "Report and Financial Statements (for the year ended 31 December 2017)" (PDF). Royal Microscopical Society. 31 December 2017. p. 2. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  6. ^ "Clubs and societies". Quekett Microscopical Club. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  7. ^ Connett, Jess (4 October 2017). "The art of the invisible". Bristol24-7. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  8. ^ Gilbert Baker, John (1902). R.G, Hebb, FRCP (ed.). "Obituary - Biographical Memoir of A.W. Bennett". Journal of the Royal Microscopical Society: 158. Retrieved 22 January 2016. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ "Notes". Nature. 25 (638): 275–277. 1882. Bibcode:1882Natur..25..275.. doi:10.1038/025275a0. ISSN 0028-0836.
  10. ^ a b c d Turner, Gerald L'E. (1989). God bless the microscope! : a history of the Royal Microscopical Society over 150 years (1st ed.). [Oxford]: Royal Microscopical Society. pp. 7–8. ISBN 9780950246345. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  11. ^ Jeffery, John Varley (1998). "A most active member of the Society: Cornelius Varley - artist and scientist (1781-1871)". RSA Journal. London: Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. 146 (5485): 137–139. JSTOR 41378588.
  12. ^ Klonk, Charlotte (2004). "Varley, Cornelius (1781–1873), landscape painter and inventor of optical apparatus | Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/28113. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  13. ^ a b c d Turner, G. L'E (1989). "The origins of the Royal Microscopical Society". Journal of Microscopy. Oxford: Royal Microscopical Society. 155 (3): 235–248. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2818.1989.tb02888.x. ISSN 1365-2818. S2CID 93222711.
  14. ^ "RMS - History". Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  15. ^ Brewster, Sir David; Taylor, Richard; Phillips, Richard (1839). Brayley, Edward W (ed.). "LXXVII - Proceedings of Learned Societies: Microscopial Society". The London and Edinburgh Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science. No. XV. Red Lion Court, Fleet Street, London: Richard & John E. Taylor. p. 549. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  16. ^ "UCL Bloomsbury Project - Quekett Microscopical Club". Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  17. ^ a b "SurgiCat - Quekett, John Thomas (1840-1854) - MS0027". Royal College of Surgeons (SurgiCat). London. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  18. ^ Gerard L'E. Turner. "1839 - Royal Microscopical Society = History of Scholarly Societies". Scholarly Societies Project. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Archived from the original on 20 February 2017. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  19. ^ Wilson, Tony (January 2016). "Introduction" (PDF). Journal of Microscopy. 261 (1): 1. doi:10.1111/(ISSN)1365-2818. ISSN 1365-2818. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  20. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0-902-198-84-X.
  21. ^ Knapp, Sandra (20 March 2018). "Celebrating the first women Fellows of the Linnean Society of London". Oxford University Press Blog. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 14 October 2018. But was there a specific tipping point for this change? In 1900, Mrs. Marian Farquharson, a botanist who had helped to publish a field guide to British ferns, requested that “duly qualified women should be eligible for ordinary Fellowship and, if elected, there should be no restriction forbidding their attendance at meetings”. This insistence on attendance at meetings was important; other societies allowed women to be members, but they were barred from attending meetings (Farquharson had been elected as the first female Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society in 1885 but was not allowed to attend). At first she was rebuffed by the Council of the Linnean Society, but eventually won the day, through sheer persistence (the Society holds a plethora of correspondence from Farquharson) and the vocal support of some members of Council. Ironically, she was the only one of the 16 proposed Fellows who was not admitted on that day in November 1904!
  22. ^ "Microscopes". Royal Mail Special Stamps. Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  23. ^ "Queen Elizabeth II 1989 150th Anniversary of Royal Microscopical Society Stamps". Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  24. ^ "RMS - Membership Benefits". Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  25. ^ "Honourary Fellows". Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  26. ^ "Honorary Fellows Past and Present". Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  27. ^ "Journal of Microscopy - All Issues - Wiley Online Library". doi:10.1111/(ISSN)1365-2818. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  28. ^ "Journal of Microscopy". Royal Microscopical Society. St Clement's Street, Oxford. 12 May 2008. Archived from the original on 12 May 2008. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  29. ^ "Journal of Microscopy". St Clement's Street, Oxford. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  30. ^ Han, Aisha (1 October 2017). "Interaction with the unknown connects scientists and artists". The Tartan. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  31. ^ Education, Department for (3 November 2015). "Further additional GCSE and A level subject content consultation - Government consultation" (PDF). Department for Education ( p. 17. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  32. ^ Microscope Activity Kits - Royal Microscopical Society website
  33. ^ "Microscopy Gender Equality Resource". Retrieved 7 March 2020.

External links[edit]