When Thomas Sprat’s The History of the Royal-Society of London appeared in 1667, it was less a history than a manifesto for the future, designed to convince Charles II that experimental research was a worthwhile investment.
Focusing on experiment and travel, this lecture describes the aims and activities of the early Royal Society almost two centuries before the word ‘scientist’ was invented. As Sprat made clear, science, imperialism and finance were inextricably linked.
Patricia has a degree in physics from Oxford and a PhD in History of Science from London. Based at Cambridge University since 1993, she is an Emeritus Fellow of Clare College and was President of the British Society for the History of Science from 2016-18.
Her major research topics are eighteenth-century England and scientific portraits, but she has published a range of academic and popular books on the history of science. Her most recent is A Lab of One's Own: Science and Suffrage in the First World War (2018) but others include the prize winning Science: A Four Thousand Year History (2009), Newton: The Making of a Genius (2002) and Pandora's Breeches: Women, Science and Power in the Enlightenment (2004).
In addition to featuring in TV and radio programmes such as In Our Time, she regularly writes reviews and articles for publications such as Nature, The Times Literary Supplement, The Lancet and History Today.
She is currently working on a book about Isaac Newton's final three decades in London, when he became Master of the Mint and President of the Royal Society.