Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Centenary of the Royal Institution, June 1899

The Times | May 30, 1899


The celebration of the centenary of the Royal Institution, which will take place next week, is an event the interest and importance of which will be attested by the presence of representative men of science from all parts of the civilized world. Other English scientific organizations may hold a more conspicuous position as official representatives of English science, but there is none so indissolubly associated in the minds of foreigners with the great fundamental triumphs of science in the present century. There is no research into the constitution of matter, no investigation of the laws of light, no extension of the observations of the astronomer, no new application of electricity to the ever-increasing number of industrial problems,which does not inevitably carry the mind of the instructed inquirer back to the Royal Institution...

The domestic record of the Royal Institution from the time when, in Davy's words, it definitely took the " form of a body for promoting experimental science and for diffusing every species of philosophical knowledge " contains few events of surpassing interest. Financial crises have been not infrequent, and sometimes acute, but have never proved fatal. Increased prosperity was hoped for as a result of the modification of its constitution by Act of Parliament in 1810, but its first endowment some 23 years later was none the less welcome. This consisted of a sum of £10,000 from John Fuller, and rumour says that it was a token of gratitude because the lecture theatre of the Institution was the only place where he could overcome the insomnia from which he habitually suffered. With two-thirds of the money professorships of chemistry and physiology were to be endowed, while the remaining portion went to form an accumulating fund, the interest on which, when the capital amounted to £10,000, was to be applied to the general purposes of the Institution. Since then it has received many legacies and donations. Money left by Mr. Alfred Davis in 1870 enabled the chemical laboratory to be rebuilt in accordance with modern requirements; in 1892 Mr. T. G. Hodgkins, of Setauket, Long Island, gave $100,000 for the " investigation of tho relations and co-relations existing between man and his Creator " ; and in 1896 Dr. Ludwig Mond founded and endowed the Davy-Faraday Research Laboratory, which is contiguous to the Royal Institution and under the superintendence of its managers.

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