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The Royal Society is 350

John Pethica previews the celebrations

Throughout 2010 the Royal Society is celebrating its 350th anniversary and the impact that science has had, and continues to have, on our lives.  We want people all over the UK to join with us.

Science has impacted on every aspect of our society and is a key element of our culture that will be highlighted throughout the year.  We would like people of all ages, interests and walks of life to have the opportunity to enjoy science and to engage with scientific activities and issues.  We particularly wish to involve audiences who do not currently think of science as a form of cultural activity.

Southbank celebrations

The highlight of the 350th anniversary celebrations will be a nine-day festival which will take place from 26 June to 4 July.  The Royal Society, in partnership with Southbank Centre, will present a huge and splendid celebration of the joy and vitality of science, its importance to society and culture and its role in shaping who we are and who we will become.

The festival will include an enhanced version of the Royal Society’s annual Summer Science Exhibition.  Interactive exhibits will spread across the ground floor of Southbank Centre, and visitors will have the chance to talk to scientists and engineers at the forefront of the UK’s research activities.  In addition to the exhibition, there will be the UK premiere of Brian Green and Philip Glass’s Icarus at the Edge of Time, as well as talks, debates, performances and activities for young people and families.  Installations throughout Southbank Centre complex will demonstrate collaborations and interactions between science and art. 

Year of Science

We are delighted that, to coincide with our 350th anniversary, the BBC has made 2010 their ‘Year of Science’.  This will be reflected across BBC television, radio and web broadcasting during the anniversary year.  The first element of this programming was a special week in January of the Radio 4 programme In our time on the history of the Royal Society, presented by Melvyn Bragg. 

The Royal Society has also worked with Harper Collins to publish Seeing Further: The Story of Science and the Royal Society.  This book of essays looks at the achievements of scientists and engineers since the foundation of the Society and how those achievements have changed the way we think and shaped the way we live. Award-winning author Bill Bryson has edited the collection and written its introduction.  The other 21 contributors to the book include Margaret Atwood, Richard Dawkins, Richard Holmes, Martin Rees and Henry Petroski, who celebrates the impact of the great engineers of the nineteenth century.

Capital Science

As well as the Society’s regular series of public lectures and debates which continue to attract large audiences, it is a partner in a programme called Capital Science. This involves major players from the arts, humanities and sciences, including some of our most renowned museums and galleries, to celebrate the achievements of science, its history and its impact on our wider culture.

Fellows of the Royal Society have come from every corner of the UK and from Caithness to Guernsey. As part of our Local Heroes programme, we will be celebrating your local scientific heroes, the pioneers, mavericks and geniuses, who for centuries have changed the way we live and see the world.  There are over seventy participating institutions and hundreds of events and activities from exhibitions and talks to family fun days and interactive workshops. 

In addition, the Royal Society will continue to ensure that the widest possible audience can experience these activities through the website.  Its facebook and twitter groups will keep members up to date on the latest news about the anniversary activities.

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Professor John Pethica
Professor John Pethica is Vice-President of the Royal Society
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