In November 1660, the world was a mysterious place. There was no explanation for the rise and ebb of the tides. Air was a puzzling, invisible fluid with unexplained properties. There was no known way to measure the height of a mountain. Minerals were produced by "certain subterranean juices through veins of the earth".
A small group of men who began meeting at Gresham College that month and formed a society to promote experimental knowledge (the royal charter came in 1662; the first women fellows were elected in 1945) listened to strange reports from Iceland of smoking lakes and fire in the sea. They wondered why winter was colder than summer, and they speculated on the spontaneous generation of life in the absence of "certain seminal principles".
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment