50 Years Ago

The Royal Society Anniversary Address by Lord Florey, O.M., P.R.S.

Perhaps the deployment of Government resources is the modern equivalent of events in the early days of the Society when Fellows contributed—or sometimes did not contribute—a shilling a week towards demonstrating experiments at meetings. There never was enough money ... At the moment it is considered to be desirable to give free medicine to all. The application of free calamine lotion to the irritated skins of the populace may be more important than administering to the needs of irritated scientists; but this sort of judgement is in the realm of politics ... it has long been the policy of the Society to have symposia and lectures ... the popularity of such gatherings has brought difficulties ... on one occasion, we had to migrate to the lecture theatre of the Shell Building on the South Bank ... one consequence of this peripatetic existence has been that we have had to procure a coffin-like box for the transport of the mace, and I am sure that our original Fellows, and even Charles II himself, might have been somewhat astonished at the adventures of their royal emblem.

From Nature 18 December 1965

100 Years Ago

The Romanes Lecture ... was a scathing indictment of the ineptitude of the lawyer-politicians who possess a dominating influence on national affairs ... To the neglect of science, and the excessive predominance in Parliament and the Government of men with the spirit of the advocate to whom all evidence which will not support their case is unwelcome, Prof. Poulton ascribes the chief mistakes in the conduct of the war.

From Nature 22 November 1915 Footnote 1