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Review Of The History Of The Royal Society Of London
by [?]


In which the most considerable papers communicated to the society, which have, hitherto, not been published, are inserted, in their proper order, as a supplement to the Philosophical Transactions. By Thomas Birch, D. D. secretary to the Royal society, 2 vols. 4to.

This book might, more properly, have been entitled by the author, a diary than a history, as it proceeds regularly from day to day, so minutely, as to number over the members present at each committee, and so slowly, that two large volumes contain only the transactions of the eleven first years from the institution of the society.

I am, yet, far from intending to represent this work as useless. Many particularities are of importance to one man, though they appear trifling to another; and it is always more safe to admit copiousness, than to affect brevity. Many informations will be afforded by this book to the biographer. I know not where else it can be found, but here, and in Ward, that Cowley was doctor in physick. And, whenever any other institution, of the same kind, shall be attempted, the exact relation of the progress of the Royal society may furnish precedents.

These volumes consist of an exact journal of the society; of some papers delivered to them, which, though registered and preserved, had been never printed; and of short memoirs of the more eminent members, inserted at the end of the year in which each died.

The original of the society is placed earlier in this history than in that of Dr. Sprat. Theodore Haak, a German of the Palatinate, in 1645, proposed, to some inquisitive and learned men, a weekly meeting, for the cultivation of natural knowledge. The first associates, whose names ought, surely, to be preserved, were Dr. Wilkins, Dr. Wallis, Dr. Goddard, Dr. Ent, Dr. Glisson, Dr. Merret, Mr. Foster of Gresham, and Mr. Haak. Sometime afterwards, Wilkins, Wallis, and Goddard, being removed to Oxford, carried on the same design there by stated meetings, and adopted into their society Dr. Ward, Dr. Bathurst, Dr. Petty, and Dr. Willis.

The Oxford society coming to London, in 1659, joined their friends, and augmented their number, and, for some time, met in Gresham college. After the restoration, their number was again increased, and on the 28th of November, 1660, a select party happening to retire for conversation, to Mr. Rooke’s apartment in Gresham college, formed the first plan of a regular society. Here Dr. Sprat’s history begins, and, therefore, from this period, the proceedings are well known.