List of presidents of the Royal Society

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The arms of the Royal Society

The President of the Royal Society (PRS) is the elected director of the Royal Society of London who presides over meetings of the society's council.

After informal meetings at Gresham College, the Royal Society was officially founded on 28 November 1660 when a group of academics decided to found "a Colledge for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematicall Experimentall Learning",[1] acquiring a Royal Charter on 15 July 1662.[2] The Royal Charter nominated William Brouncker as president, and stipulated that future presidents should be elected by the Council and Fellows of the society at anniversary meetings each year on St. Andrew's Day (30 November).

The details of the presidency were described by the second Royal Charter, which did not set any limit on how long a president could serve. There were considerable fluctuations in the president's term of office until well into the 19th century. By then, sentiment had turned against electing wealthy amateurs solely because they might become patrons of the society, and in 1847 the society decided that Fellows would be elected solely on scientific merit. Since the 1870s it has been usual (with a few exceptions) for each President to serve for exactly five years. Under the current statutes, a president cannot serve for more than five years.[3]

The current President is Venkatraman Ramakrishnan who began his 5 year tenure in 2015.[4] Historically, the duties of the president have been both formal and social. Under the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, the President was one of only a few people authorised to certify that a particular experiment on an animal was justified, and in addition he acted as the government's chief (albeit informal) advisor for scientific matters. At the same time, the President was tasked with entertaining distinguished foreign guests and scientists.[5]

The changeover of presidents occurs on the Royal Society Anniversary Day, the weekday on or nearest to 30 November, after the departing President's Anniversary Address.[6]

Presidents of the Royal Society

Years President Profession
1662–1677 William Brouncker, 2nd Viscount Brouncker by Sir Peter Lely.jpg The Viscount Brouncker Mathematician
1677–1680 SirJosephWilliamson.jpg Sir Joseph Williamson Civil servant and politician
1680–1682 Christopher Wren by Godfrey Kneller 1711.jpg Sir Christopher Wren Architect, astronomer and physicist
1682–1683 John Hoskins PRS.jpg Sir John Hoskyns, Bt Lawyer
1683–1684 SirCyrilWyche.jpg Cyril Wyche Lawyer and politician
1684–1686 Samuel Pepys.jpg Samuel Pepys Naval administrator and Member of Parliament
1686–1689 John Vaughan, 3rd Earl of Carbery by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt.jpg The Earl of Carbery Politician
1689–1690 Thomas Herbert, 8th Earl of Pembroke by John Greenhill.jpg The Earl of Pembroke Politician
1690–1695 SirRobertSouthwell.jpg Sir Robert Southwell Diplomat
1695–1698 1stEarlOfHalifax.jpg Charles Montagu Poet and statesman
1698–1703 John Somers, Baron Somers by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt lowres color.jpg The Lord Somers Jurist and statesman
1703–1727 Sir Isaac Newton by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt.jpg Sir Isaac Newton Physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian
1727–1741 Hans Sloane.jpg Sir Hans Sloane, Bt Physician and collector
1741–1752 Martin Folkes.jpg Martin Folkes Antiquarian
1752–1764 George Parker, 2nd Earl of Macclesfield.jpg The Earl of Macclesfield Astronomer
1764–1768 James Douglas Davison crop.jpg The Earl of Morton Astronomer and representative peer
1768-1768 Sir James Burrow.jpg James Burrow Legal reporter
1768–1772 James West 1703-1772.jpg James West Politician and antiquarian
1772-1772 Sir James Burrow.jpg James Burrow Legal reporter
1772–1778 John Pringle.jpg Sir John Pringle Physician
1778–1820 Joseph Banks 1773 Reynolds.jpg Sir Joseph Banks Naturalist and botanist
1820-1820 Wollaston William Hyde Jackson color.jpg William Hyde Wollaston Chemist
1820–1827 Davy Humphry desk color Howard.jpg Sir Humphry Davy, Bt Chemist and inventor
1827–1830 Davies-gilbert.jpg Davies Gilbert Engineer, author and politician
1830–1838 Knight of the Order of the Thistle.jpg HRH The Duke of Sussex Sixth son of George III of the United Kingdom
1838–1848 2nd Marquess of Northampton, by Henry Raeburn.jpg The Marquess of Northampton Nobleman
1848–1854 William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse photo.jpg The Earl of Rosse Astronomer
1854–1858 75px The Lord Wrottesley Astronomer
1858–1861 Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie, 1st Bt 1856.jpg Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie, Bt Physiologist and surgeon
1861–1871 75px Sir Edward Sabine Astronomer, geophysicist, ornithologist and explorer
1871–1873 George Biddell Airy.jpg Sir George Biddell Airy Mathematician and astronomer
1873–1878 Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker.jpg Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker Botanist and explorer
1878–1883 William Spottiswoode.jpg William H. Spottiswoode Mathematician and physicist
1883–1885 T.H.Huxley(Woodburytype).jpg Thomas Henry Huxley Biologist
1885–1890 Ggstokes.jpg Sir George Stokes Mathematician and physicist
1890–1895 75px Sir William Thomson Mathematical physicist
1895–1900 Joseph Lister 1902.jpg The Lord Lister Surgeon
1900–1905 Sir William Huggins by John Collier.jpg Sir William Huggins Astronomer
1905–1908 John William Strutt.jpg The Lord Rayleigh Physicist
1908–1913 Sir Archibald Geikie.jpg Sir Archibald Geikie Geologist and writer
1913–1915 PSM V10 D660 William Crookes.jpg Sir William Crookes Chemist and physicist
1915–1920 J.J Thomson.jpg Sir Joseph John Thomson Physicist
1920–1925 Prof. Charles Scott Sherrington.jpg Sir Charles Scott Sherrington Neurophysiologist, histologist, bacteriologist, and pathologist
1925–1930 Ernest Rutherford LOC.jpg Sir Ernest Rutherford Physicist and chemist
1930–1935 Frederick Gowland Hopkins nobel.jpg Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins Biophysicist
1935–1940 Wh-bragg.jpg Sir William Henry Bragg Physicist, chemist and mathematician
1940–1945 Henry Dale nobel.jpg Sir Henry Hallett Dale Pharmacologist and physiologist
1945–1950 Robert Robinson organic chemist.jpg Sir Robert Robinson Organic chemist
1950–1955 Edgar Douglas Adrian nobel.jpg Edgar Adrian Electrophysiologist
1955–1960 Cyril Norman Hinshelwood Nobel.jpg Sir Cyril Norman Hinshelwood Physical chemist
1960–1965 Howard Walter Florey 1945.jpg Sir Howard Florey Pharmacologist and pathologist
1965–1970 Blackett-large.jpg Patrick Blackett Physicist
1970–1975 Alan Lloyd Hodgkin nobel.jpg Sir Alan Lloyd Hodgkin Physiologist and Biophysicist
1975–1980 Alexander Todd Nobel.jpg The Lord Todd Biochemist
1980–1985 Andrew huxley trinity.png Sir Andrew Huxley Physiologist and biophysicist
1985–1990 George Porter Nobel.jpg Sir George Porter Chemist
1990–1995 Michael Francis Atiyah.jpg Sir Michael Atiyah Mathematician
1995–2000 Aaron Klug 1979.jpg Sir Aaron Klug Chemist and biophysicist
2000–2005 BobMayHarvard.jpg Sir Robert May Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government
2005–2010 Martin Rees at Jodrell Bank in 2007.jpg The Lord Rees of Ludlow Cosmologist and astrophysicist
2010–2015 Paul Nurse portrait.jpg Sir Paul Nurse Geneticist and cell biologist
2015–present Nobel Prize 2009-Press Conference KVA-08.jpg Sir Venkatraman Ramakrishnan Biophysicist


  1. "History of the Royal Society". 
  2. The Royal Society. "Royal Charters". Retrieved 14 March 2012. 
  3. "The role of President of the Royal Society". The Royal Society. Archived from the original on 9 June 2008. Retrieved 6 December 2009. 
  5. "The Presidency of the Royal Society of London". Science. American Association for the Advancement of Science. 6 (146): 442–3. 1885. PMID 17749567. doi:10.1126/science.ns-6.146.442. 
  6. "The Role of President of the Royal Society". The Royal Society. 2008. Retrieved 2 April 2008.