Royal Society

THE ROYAL SOCIETY: And the Invention of Modern Science.

By Adrian Tinniswood. Basic Books. 219 pages. $26.

We all enter life “in media res” (in the middle of the thing). To use a more poetic explanation, we can turn to “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare in which we hear Antonio tell Sebastian, “What’s past is prologue.” And that “past” informs our understanding of what we know and see and do.

Since we all begin in the middle of the thing, it is of interest to see how some things began, and English author Adrian Tinniswood has provided just such a window into the founding of the Royal Society and the beginning of serious scientific inquiry that has led us to a time when we remember the 1969 trip to the moon and daily celebrate the ability to communicate electronically with each other.

Tinniswood brings to life the legendary names whose work, begun in 1600, we study today — the work that helped us send astronauts to the moon, and understand that the sun does not orbit the Earth.

The science classes we enjoy today are built on the foundational mission of the Royal Society: advancing knowledge through experimentation. That mission statement and the methods of study the group spawned make us appreciate the importance of its motto: “Nullus in verba” (“Take no one’s word for it.”) A more current re-statement of the motto might be, “Question Authority!”

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