Talk:Royal Society

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Good article Royal Society has been listed as one of the Natural sciences good articles under the good article criteria. If you can improve it further, please do so. If it no longer meets these criteria, you can reassess it.
December 31, 2009 Good article nominee Listed
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Massive update[edit]

As people can see, I've massively updated, tweaked and expanded the article - if anyone feels like commenting/criticising/suggesting amendments, feel free to drop something here on the talk :). Ironholds (talk) 21:08, 18 December 2009 (UTC)

Hi, I just came across an article in The Economist that mentions this year, ie 2010, as the 350th anniversary of the society, pegging the 28th November, 1660 date as its date of foundation. On checking the Royal Society website I found a validation of that information [1]. While this entry mentions the date it does not explicitly point it out as the date of foundation. Do you think it ought to mention something on the lines of "This event is today recognised as the founding meeting of the Royal Society", as it does in the website, in reference to it. Demodifier (talk) 13:28, 12 January 2010 (UTC)
Good point; I'll link it in this evening when I get back from work. Thanks, Ironholds (talk) 14:53, 12 January 2010 (UTC)
28 November 1660 was indeed the founding meeting of the first Fellows and is the date we now use to celebrate our Anniversary Day. As to the actual date of foundation, there are a number of possibilities. It might be wise to use the date we were granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II (although he granted us three of them, which doesn't exactly help!) PointOfPresence (talk) 13:20, 22 April 2010 (UTC)

Hi, good job on the article. Perhaps you could sketch the move from pre-uniformitarian times under Pepys, Newton et al, to the present? There is huge interest on this, what with the recent attempted sacking of one fellow[1] for being percieved as not uniformitarian enough. Maybe outline what part the uniformitarian assumptions play within the Society, and how they differ from the creation style assumptions made by Newton, Maxwell, Kepler et al.

7kingis (talk) 03:25, 7 April 2010 (UTC)

  1. ^

Any influences from earlier empirical societies?[edit]

Are there any empirical societies prior to the Royal Society that may have influenced it? For example, the Casa de la Contratacion in Seville?-- (talk) 04:31, 20 October 2012 (UTC)

Michael Reiss[edit]

I've removed a reference to a nine-day wonder involving a misreported statement by Michael Reiss. At best, this belongs on the biographical article of that scientist. It has no place here. --TS 20:54, 7 October 2010 (UTC)

Imho, the point is worth noting. As far as "recentism," I've seen that term on talk pages, but can't find a WP page on it. To me, something 2 years old isn't recent, but it's entirely possible misunderstand the term.
Not sure what "nine-day wonder" means here. I think the fact that Reiss had to resign after suggesting questions from students about creationism be answered is pertinent to the article. The article should aim to inform about the history, nature, mission, publications, and deeds of the society. If the society will not countenance that suggestion, I think that fact should be included. Dawkins thought it significant enough to comment on. Nearly a year after the event ("row" or "affair," as the press called it) it was still getting traction. (It's a blog, but at, and here are the blogster's credentials.)
It’s not everyday you’ll find Richard Dawkins agreeing with a priest who was hounded out of his job for daring to suggest creationists shouldn’t be totally ostracised. However, Dawkins and Reverend Professor Michael Reiss have both put their names to a demand that evolution should not be excluded from primary schools in the UK.
--Yopienso (talk) 00:36, 8 October 2010 (UTC)

(I took the liberty of trimming out some off-topic to-and-fro while we got to this discussion with everything in one place --TS 00:43, 8 October 2010 (UTC))

Thank you; great job. I'm pretty busy right now so probably won't be commenting in the next several hours or more. --Yopienso (talk) 00:58, 8 October 2010 (UTC)

It was a storm in a teacup. The Society is a fellowship organization--a college, if you like--and Reiss himself is not a Fellow, much less an elected Officer of the Society, he was only ever an employee of the Society. It was unfortunate that his remarks were misinterpreted and he resigned, but it doesn't rank alongside the other events in this article which mostly focuses on governance and the membership. If we do cover the affairs of employees, even those that make the newspapers, we shouldn't just pick on the latest newspaper article. That's what I mean by Recentism. Look at the latest event before the Reiss affair in that section, and you'll see it relates to the first election of female Fellows, in 1945.

To give you a further example of where this all stands, I should point you to the state of the article in the days before the Reiss affair, here. There is no mention of Reiss, and even the section "Permanent staff" only lists the Executive Secretary and three of his Senior Managers. That section of the article has not changed much in the intervening period. Reiss himself is a prominent bioethicist and specialist in science education, but his work with the Royal Society was in a minor role, albeit a public-facing one. When he stepped down, the Society itself described his post as "a part-time post he held on secondment."

Understandably the press often finds it difficult to distinguish between part-time employees and elected Fellows and Officers, and tends to think anybody whose role in an organization is to perform public outreach must be a very important person within the structure of the Society. We don't have to follow their errors. --TS 01:50, 8 October 2010 (UTC)

I shouldn't have started this knowing I had precious little time to devote to it. My take on it, and I reacted too quickly, was that this incident reveals the overt anti-religion stance of the Society. I think that's important, as it identifies a core value in its decision-making process. The problem here wasn't really what Reiss said but that he was a priest. Dawkins was uncharacteristically polite in his letter to which I linked above:
Unfortunately for him as a would-be spokesman for the Royal Society, Michael Reiss is also an ordained minister. To call for his resignation on those grounds, as several Nobel-prize-winning Fellows are now doing, comes a little too close to a witch-hunt for my squeamish taste.
Nevertheless - it's regrettable but true - the fact that he is a priest undermines him as an effective spokesman for accommodationism: "Well, he would say that, wouldn't he!"
As Dawkins also says in that letter, in the US we--including Eugenie Scott--are more accommodationist. It is my own accommodationist attitude that rankles at the deletion of the paragraph.
I won't argue with you as to whether this was a storm in a teacup, but may disagree on the size of the teacup. On a grand scale, the world didn't stop spinning, the stock market didn't crash, the Prime Minister wasn't ousted. But in the Royal Society/teaching-of-evolution culture war community, it reverberated, as I noted above, for months.
I still see the issue the same way I did yesterday when I made an over-hasty revert. I do see your point that the article deals in broad outlines and that Reiss was a minor figure. His resignation, however, made him a much larger figure in its symbolism. Omitting all mention of it smacks, to me, of glossing over what could be perceived as intolerance on the part of the Society. Please see my user page for my editing rationale.
In my opinion, the Society's attitude and action in this case casts them into the unworthy lot of people who don't know what niggardly means.
I've said all this, well, because I wanted to, I guess! :-) To show you and any editor who happens along why I think this is significant. But I don't have the time or energy or will to pursue the issue, so I'm dropping it. In leaving, Tony, thank you for your good will, which I reciprocate. --Yopienso (talk) 16:29, 8 October 2010 (UTC)

I agree with you that what made Reiss's job untenable was the call for his resignation by two of the more illustrious Fellows, who didn't like having an ordained minister in such a sensitive role. The secular nature of the Society is very important historically; for much of its history it was the only secular body of scientists in Britain, all of the other institutions required their Fellows, with rare exceptions due to Royal patronage, to take holy orders.

However the involvement of Kroto and Roberts, which I do not think was covered in the piece I removed, does tend to sway me in your direction. Most of the Press flubbed this story through ignorance or simple carelessness about the Society's secular ethic. There was a related controversy, in my opinion more telling, over the Society's acceptance of Templeton money. I'll think about this and type something up when I get home. The important thing is to get this into historical, that is to say encyclopedic, context. Tasty monster (=TS ) 17:26, 8 October 2010 (UTC)

In response to a link and comment from 2/0 about Recentism, I just wrote on my talk page:
Please look at the article if you can find time; Tony seems to have never gotten back to it. I'm thinking something appropriate would be, In keeping with its historic[ally] secular orientation, the Society only reluctantly accepted a priest as Director of Education and gladly received his resignation after comments he made about addressing questions students might ask about creationism were misrepresented in the media. A footnote could link to the story. --Yopienso (talk) 22:05, 31 October 2010 (UTC)
The above section is all groundless speculation and bullshit without some kind of citation. Can you prove that the acceptance of a priest was reluctant, and that the resignation was received "gladly"? Because if you can't, It's not going in. Ironholds (talk) 00:46, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
I'll be happy to engage with you after you've read everything in this section and looked at the history of the article from Oct. 7-8. --Yopienso (talk) 04:43, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
What the- looked at the history of the article? I wrote most of the article. Look, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. That's the rule. That means that if you want to say things like " the Society only reluctantly accepted a priest as Director of Education and gladly received his resignation " you must provide a metric fuckton of reliable sources before it acceptable. The opinions of two individuals, Nature bloggers or not, are not enough. Ironholds (talk) 12:17, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
Thank you for reading what others have written. Tony's point was that the RS was ground-breaking in being secular, and my point is that the episode with Reiss illustrates the Society wants to keep it that way. I'm hoping Francis (Andeggs) will have some helpful contributions. --Yopienso (talk) 17:33, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
Andeggs; are you there? I believe this article in the Guardian should somehow be incorporated into our WP article. This section of the talk page makes much of the Royal Society's secular orientation, but that is not reflected in the article. The Royal Society itself makes no such overt claim. Is the Society anti-religious, or does Kroto speak solely for himself? Yopienso (talk) 17:07, 24 February 2012 (UTC)

Feedback to the Royal Society[edit]

Hi everyone, thanks for all the great work developing these Royal Society pages. If you see ways in which the Royal Society's website could be improved or you have ideas about the sort of information we could publish then please let us know here: (select 'Web site queries'). Thanks, Francis (Web Editor, The Royal Society) Andeggs (talk) 10:37, 1 November 2010 (UTC)

Welcome! I invite your comments on the discussion above about Michael Reiss and the Society's stance about a member of the clergy being in a leadership position. --Yopienso (talk) 17:25, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
I'm particularly interested in your response to this that I wrote above on Oct. 8:
I do see your point that the article deals in broad outlines and that Reiss was a minor figure. His resignation, however, made him a much larger figure in its symbolism. Omitting all mention of it smacks, to me, of glossing over what could be perceived as intolerance on the part of the Society.
and to Tony's entire response the same day, beginning with:
I agree with you that what made Reiss's job untenable was the call for his resignation by two of the more illustrious Fellows,...
Yopienso: you understand how Reliable Sources work, yes? Andeggs saying that "yes, internal Royal Society scuttlebutt sez that's what happens" is irrelevant. Ironholds (talk) 17:54, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
I hold the quaint attitude that I could occasionally be wrong. If Andeggs says I am on this, I drop the issue. If he says I'm right, it would be worth pursuing if I have the time. --Yopienso (talk) 18:12, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
Expert opinions are irrelevant in this matter. If you can find reliable sources, fine. If you cannot, you drop it. Ironholds (talk) 19:07, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
You missed my point. My looking would depend partly on what Andeggs says. If he dismisses the notion out of hand, why should I waste my time? If he agrees, it would be worth my time--if I could find it--to dig up some RSs. But I have a funny feeling no quantity or quality of RSs would convince you. Fortunately, I have no inclination to try to do that. --Yopienso (talk) 19:34, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
If you slough off Dawkins' and Nature's views, what's mine? Less than nothing. And, really, it is! :-) I assume your view is far more informed than mine, but, sadly, more entrenched as well. Best wishes, --Yopienso (talk) 19:40, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
More entrenched, and no amount of reliable sources? This is, I assume, based on the fact that I, uhm, asked for reliable sources before dropping us in the shit :P. How blinkered you are. Ironholds (talk) 22:42, 1 November 2010 (UTC)


The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: Not moved. The guideline at WP:THE should be respected unless there is a good reason. As pointed out there, the country is called "the United Kingdom" in running text so we have the article at United Kingdom. Even on the above talk page, and within the article itself, people are writing it as "the Royal Society". Since "the" is not capitalized, as in The Hague, we don't usually make "the" be part of the article title. EdJohnston (talk) 16:21, 4 December 2010 (UTC) EdJohnston (talk) 16:21, 4 December 2010 (UTC)

Royal SocietyThe Royal Society — The correct legal name includes the word "The" There are registered trade marks to prove this. ThanksPointOfPresence (talk) 10:03, 23 November 2010 (UTC) PointOfPresence (talk) 10:03, 23 November 2010 (UTC)

  • Support, as per PointOfPresence. Jonchapple (talk) 12:54, 23 November 2010 (UTC)
  • Unsure, maybe not: there is WP:DEFINITE. It also sets a precident that we should start moving RSPB, RSPCA, RoSPA, etc... ComputScientist (talk) 20:43, 23 November 2010 (UTC)
  • Support per nam and Jonch --Extra 999 (Contact me + contribs) 12:53, 24 November 2010 (UTC)
  • Support I think this is one of the only cases where I support the inclusion of The. If there were no other royal societies I would not be supporting this motion. However, there are a large number of other royal societies. As such, I can see the value is including The in this case and in this case only. Given wikipedia doesn't care about WP:OFFICIALNAMES find the argument put forward by PointOfPresence inappropriate and rather contrary to convention. My support is principally on the basis of WP:THE given it is almost exclusively referred to as The Royal Society and helps distinguish it from others.--Labattblueboy (talk) 16:07, 24 November 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose - per WP:THE: "When a proper name is almost always used with capitalized "The", especially if it is included by unofficial sources, we should include it." and "Definite and indefinite articles should be avoided for all cases not mentioned above." The "the" is used several times but not capitalized on this page from the Society's website. Kuguar03 (talk) 23:06, 24 November 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose per Kuguar03. "Royal Society" on its own always refers to this organisation and not, for example, the Royal Geographical Society, the Royal Society of Medicine, or the Royal Society of Arts. Their website is located at The Celestial City (talk) 18:59, 25 November 2010 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

Is Royal Society indeed the oldest learning society?[edit] Francaise

The Académie was officially established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII

Royal Society was established 25 years later(1660). — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:12, 5 August 2011 (UTC)

Please clarify which Académie your are referring to (neither the above link nor French Academy of Sciences mention 1635) and provide references if this is not in wikipedia articles. Materialscientist (talk) 04:48, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
I think editor intended to link to Academie Francaise, established in 1635. But that is not a society for science. ComputScientist (talk) 08:48, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Yeah; as far as I'm aware the only possible competitor is the german equivalent. Ironholds (talk) 14:36, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
  • The Academia Secretorum Naturae was created in 1560 though it survived only until 1578. The Accademia dei Lincei was founded in 1603 and it still exists. Both were scientific societies and they predate both the Royal Society and the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. Any statement as to which scientific society is the oldest ought to come from a secondary source. The question of which was the first scientific society must surely have been a topic of discussion among historians. EdJohnston (talk) 14:45, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Yes; since the first one was closed, it's hardly a useful comparison. I would suggest providing a secondary source for your second statement as well, which currently lacks one; if you are aware of sources covering the oldest society, feel free to include them. Ironholds (talk) 15:48, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
On their own web site, the Royal Society claims to be the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence but gives no citation for that claim. They celebrated their 350th anniversary in 2010, which would acknowledge a 1660 founding date. The German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina asserts: "The Leopoldina was founded in 1652 in Schweinfurt and is thus the oldest continuously existing academy of natural sciences and medicine in the world", per a document on their web site. The Leopoldina safely follows the precedent of the Royal Society by giving no reference for their statement. The two claims refer to the same criterion ('continuously existing academy') so they can't both be true. I do not know how the Royal Society would respond to the rival claims of the Lincei and the Leopoldina. Footnote 2 on our Leopoldina article is clearly incorrect. The Royal Society dates its own royal charter to 1662, not 1650. Until we find reliable sources, we probably should change the Royal Society article so it does not assert in Wikipedia's voice that it is 'possibly the oldest such society in existence'. EdJohnston (talk) 17:03, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Well, the Royal Society article does contain a citation saying it's true - and the Royal Society is dating its second charter, not its first one. Ironholds (talk) 17:40, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
Second charter? It would be hard for them to have got a royal charter before 1660, since there was no king on the throne between 1649 and 1660. The Royal Society is not a historian. They are not a reliable source for their own priority. We could, of course, list all the conflicting claims the way newspapers would. EdJohnston (talk) 17:59, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I would suggest amending the footnote to include the Italian claim. Ironholds (talk) 16:43, 15 August 2011 (UTC)

Invisible College[edit]

The identification of the so-called Invisible College around Boyle with the Wilkins group is basically probably wrong, a mistake that has been around since the 18th century. I'm trying to make the article about it reflect contemporary scholarly views. Anything said here should be very cautious. There were in any case a number of groups concerned in the prehistory of the Royal Society. Charles Matthews (talk) 09:23, 14 August 2011 (UTC)

  • Then...can you provide reliable sources? Ironholds (talk) 13:00, 14 August 2011 (UTC)

Yes. There are certainly no problems with talking about a group at Gresham College from 1645, which came to include John Wilkins who was later at Wadham College, Oxford and drew in various scientists in a "big tent" fashion (i.e. including royalists such as Wren). The only snag is that that group doesn't have a really respectable name: "men of Gresham" would do. The name Invisible College was borrowed for that group, it seems during the 18th century, and this nomenclature gets two points almost exactly wrong: (i) the real "invisible college" were the people who were excluded from the "big tent", and were deliberately left out of the Royal Society when it was set up, i.e. Hartlib and friends; and (ii) it seems that "invisible college" more generally meant a correspondence network at the time, not people who met face-to-face. So we are dealing with a serious misnomer, at best. That is why this page for example, by Richard S. Westfall, talks about the group in London, the misnamed "Invisible College," generally taken as the precursor to the Royal Society. So, indeed, there are reliable sources: Christopher Hill too, for example.

More of a writing problem concerns exactly what should be said here: a reference to the "Wilkins group" would be better, certainly. Charles Matthews (talk) 19:29, 15 August 2011 (UTC)

I'm now drafting something in my userspace that ought to be better to link to. Charles Matthews (talk) 15:31, 16 August 2011 (UTC)

Gresham College and the formation of the Royal Society has been created. I think all the mentions in this article of the Invisible College are wrong and misleading. The whole section on the foundation needs to be carefully referenced in the light of current views. Charles Matthews (talk) 09:53, 10 December 2011 (UTC)

Are all Fellows notable?[edit]

I had assumed that all Fellows of the Royal Society of London would pass Wikipedia's notibility criteria, but perhaps not?

Thoughts? --Mais oui! (talk) 12:33, 18 December 2011 (UTC)

And another one:
--Mais oui! (talk) 12:41, 18 December 2011 (UTC)

Rutherford is in the Dictionary of National Biography. I wouldn't argue that absolutely every person in the DNB is notable; but the exceptions are usually rather special cases. The ODNB says of him "controversies with anti-vivisectionists led to a nervous breakdown". There was a certain amount of hushing-up at the time. I see no reason to argue that he is not notable.

Generally speaking, things like FRS or DNB inclusion give a prima facie case for notability here. Some people might come under "famous for just one thing", or "wrote a book and the topic of the article should be the book rather than the person", i.e. biography somewhat narrow. Looking at [2] I see no reason to exclude Sheina Marshall. Charles Matthews (talk) 14:04, 18 December 2011 (UTC)

Thanks for pinging me, Mais Oui! I've amplified each a bit, and removed the notability tag, since these two seem clearly notable to me. FRS get special extended biographical treatment in Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. I agree with Charles's remarks. Dsp13 (talk) 17:24, 18 December 2011 (UTC)
  • (much later) See WP:PROF, "Criteria" (my bold):

Academics/professors meeting any one of the following conditions, as substantiated through reliable sources, are notable. ...

1. The person's research has made significant impact in their scholarly discipline, broadly construed, as demonstrated by independent reliable sources. 2. The person has received a highly prestigious academic award or honor at a national or international level.

3. The person is or has been an elected member of a highly selective and prestigious scholarly society or association (e.g., a National Academy of Sciences or the Royal Society) or a Fellow of a major scholarly society for which that is a highly selective honor (e.g., the IEEE)."

Johnbod (talk) 02:30, 13 October 2013 (UTC)

List of female Fellows of the Royal Society[edit]

The recently-created List of female Fellows of the Royal Society has been nominated by KTC (talk · contribs) as a featured list at Wikipedia:Featured list candidates. There's also a newly-augmented Category:Female Fellows of the Royal Society. Regards, Eric: Esowteric+Talk 12:38, 22 October 2012 (UTC)

Ascension Parish Burial Ground, Cambridge[edit]

There are 24 'FRS' buried in the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge; is this the largest single collection of FRS graves? (talk) 18:52, 25 October 2012 (UTC)


There needs to be something about the parallels with British & Dutch Freemasonry. The Grand Masters John Theophilus Desaguliers and John Montagu, 2nd Duke of Montagu were Fellows of the Royal Society. There are more names in a masonic biography of Sir Isaac Newton. --Wool Bridge (talk) 22:11, 10 March 2013 (UTC)

Interesting - is there any historical research that you can cite to clarify that? Remember WP:NOR! Barney the barney barney (talk) 22:19, 10 March 2013 (UTC)

Disclosure on updates[edit]

The multiple edits made on January 29 in this diff updating and correcting the existing text were made by various Royal Society staff members in the course of editing training led by myself as Wikipedian in Residence at the Royal Society. In most cases the existing links led to web pages with the correct current information. One sentence that was plain wrong, and not supported by the reference was removed. Wiki at Royal Society John (talk) 03:02, 30 January 2014 (UTC)

How many fellows are there?[edit]

The article says 1,450 in one place, and 1,314 in another. Richard75 (talk) 23:40, 23 March 2014 (UTC)

Changed, but if you followed the ref on 1314 you would have seen 1450. It is pointless trying to get an exact figure; there is a death about twice a month, but 50 new Fellows every April, so the total is slowly rising. Wiki at Royal Society John (talk) 01:12, 24 March 2014 (UTC)

NEW: Photos for Commons of the new Fellows for 2014[edit]

I'm delighted to be able to announce that the Royal Society has agreed that the official photo portraits of the new Fellows elected in 2014 / List of Fellows of the Royal Society elected in 2014 will, as the default, be released on open licences and uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. It is intended that this will continue in future years. The photos are taken at the Induction Day in July so will not be on Commons until after that. Please watch the project page at Wikipedia:WikiProject Royal Society! There may be some exceptions, where Fellows prefer to use an existing photo which cannot be released on an open licence. Wiki at Royal Society John (talk) 12:29, 15 May 2014 (UTC)

Useful resources[edit]

Hi, it would be great if this page had some more information about the more recent activities and history of the Society. Here are some useful resources for anyone who wants to take up the challenge:

There could also be more information about the Society's library and collections. Here's a scanned book which offers a definitive history of the Library:

Thanks Andeggs (talk) 11:25, 7 June 2014 (UTC) (Digital Manager, The Royal Society)

New photos on Commons from the Royal Society Library[edit]

As part of Wikipedia:WikiProject Royal Society a special photo session in the Royal Society Library in London has resulted in Commons:Category:Royal Society Library, with over 50 photos of their treasures, mostly 17th century manuscripts, including several of one of the early minute books, Boyle's notebooks etc, the manuscript fair copy of Newton's Principia etc. Please add these as appropriate. Thanks! Wiki at Royal Society John (talk) 22:05, 25 June 2014 (UTC)


Given how many important contributions to science have been made by fellows of the Royal Society, presented at its meetings, disclosed in its journals, etc., it seems like this article should have a sampling. The 18th Century section says the society had "a small number of scientific "greats" compared to other periods", which seems like a teaser as to what the "greats" actually were. -- Beland (talk) 23:31, 4 December 2014 (UTC)