Neal Stephenson’s Royal Society


Today I’m extremely happy. And so was yesterday, and the day before and so on. Eventually, every day I woke up I still can’t believe my good luck… Anyway, this post is not aimed to speak about happiness, maybe any other day that I feel specially twee. The thing is that I started to be kinda excited since last Friday afternoon: I registered for an event related to my topic of research (Transient Sky with Gaia) with lots of relevant people presenting their work in there. Amazing! But getting back to my topic, this event were going to be held in… The Royal Society of London!!!

Maybe for those of you who are not really into science or simply those who’ve never read the Neal Stephenson’s “Baroque Cycle” it may sound like WTF/WTH. Well, may be. Then this post is going to be quite meaningless for you, unless you decide to sort yourself out and get these thick 3 books right now. It’s about History Fiction. Similar to SciFi, but in the past. Real historical events mixed with imaginary and amusing situations. It may sound like cheap marketing campaign, but I may admit that some years after having read them, I can appreciate what Neal did for us.

So then, what’s the point? These books describe the status and evolution of European society in 17th and 18th centuries. Among that events, the Royal Society plays an important role, as well it’s very initial members, such as John Wilkins, Robert Hooke, Sir Christopher Wren or Isaac Newton. It explains the type of experiments that they held at that epoch, the instrumentation they used / invented and comments on the relevance of their work.

What is still in place after that epoch? Well, the actual location of The Royal Society is not the original one, so it has been reallocated several times, but it still keeps some portraits and original work done by the society’s members… and maybe any other little treasure. Here I present a list of things that I could identify from the books:

  • Member’s portraits, such as Newton’s one.
  • John Wilkins book on philosophical language: An Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language
  • Natural and Political Observations Made upon the Bills of Mortality book written by John Graunt, which is the first mortality statistics in the city of London.
  • AND a strange box with an extremly complex locking system… which was used at that epoch to keep extremely valuable items! The one who’ve read the books probably already know what I’m talking about 😉

I’m sure that there are may other things that I missed, but at least I’m happy to have identified some of them ^^

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