The Royal Society of London is perhaps the most venerable scientific organization in the world. Founded in 1660 under a charter from King Charles II, it has played a role over the years in some of the great scientific debates in Western civilization. Now, in more modern fashion, it’s opening an online store.
Last week marked the debut of the Royal Society Print Shop, which features reproductions of 2,500 images from the society’s historical collection. There are portraits of Isaac Newton (president of the Royal Society in the early 1700s), illustrations of the effects of a volcanic eruption in Indonesia on sunsets in England, and an engraving from 1773 of two natives sticking out their tongues at each other, titled “The manner in which the New Zealand Warriors defy their Enemies.”
They’re fun to imagine in your living room, and also a reminder of how important art could be to science—especially in an era where photography or visiting a place was totally out of the question for so many people. Science has always relied on observation, and for most of its history, “observation” relied on artists.Kevin Hartnett is a writer in South Carolina. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.