The Royal Society

Science in the Making

The Royal Society is the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence. Our library holds one of the most important history of science collections in the world with thousands of rare and unique items. These include published works, handwritten drafts, correspondence, illustrations, and original data on everything from rainfall to astronomical observations. We hold records of the work of the Society since 1660. Some of our historical datasets, such as those on climate, contribute to current scientific investigation and they are all important for historical research.

Established in 2014, the Science in the Making project is an ambitious digitisation programme that aims to make over 30,000 items of archival material related to the publication of the Society’s scientific journals available online. 

This complements the high quality digitisation of all our journals dating from 1665 to 1996. Librarians can purchase perpetual access to the Royal Society Journals Archive.

This website is a pilot project to explore how best to present the complex material that lies behind the published articles; peer reviews, correspondence, photographs, illustrations and early drafts. The varied content includes peer reviews by Charles Darwin, correspondence by Newton, and an extensive collection of photography from the British Antarctic expedition; all chosen to provide an introduction of the breadth of the Royal Society collection. 

Explore the content

Curated themes, such as the Scientific History of Colours, have been created by experts from our Centre for the History of Science to guide you through the development of particular aspects of scientific investigation and discovery.

Exploring the site by people allows you to research not only the life and work of scientists, but the important relationships that nurtured and inspired them.

From Cassegrainian telescopes--Design and construction to Whales, our Library of Congress tags will help you search all the Science in the Making content online and add valuable metadata to the documents you find. 

Join the community

As you will see, much of the content has been digitised, but not transcribed. Such is the size of the collection that transcribing all the material would take many years. We invite you to transcribe documents related to your research interests. Sign up for a free account and you can unlock these handwritten documents, both for your research and the wider academic community, creating metadata that matters to you, that will enable others to navigate and understand our archive.  

The Science in the Making project will allow our collections to become more accessible to researchers from all over the world and be more closely linked with other archives. It will be easier to discover different types of material and understand the rich context of scientific investigation since 1660. Our ambition is to create a collaborative online environment, with powerful search and linking, to facilitate new breakthroughs in the History of Science.
Our regular contributors have transcribed over 650 pages and created over 400 new tags to help navigate the content. Sign up for a free account and join the enthusiastic community of contributors to this project.

Take the next step

  • Want to discover the Philosophical Transactions, one of the earliest scientific periodicals? Browse our online archive
  • Are you a library interested in purchasing perpetual access to the Royal Society journals? Find out more and get in touch.
  • Are you a teacher or lecturer in palaeography or the history of science? Get in touch.
  • Is your organisation interested in helping fund this project? Contact us.
  • Does your organisation have related content? Let us know. 

Find out more about The Royal Society.

For high-resolution reproductions of illustrations visit our Picture Library.

This platform was developed by Digirati Ltd – discover their development journey through their project blog.

Terms of Use

Content is freely available on Science in the Making website, however, please note that uses are restricted.

  • Academic and teaching re-use is encouraged and not restricted. Please make it clear that Science in the Making and the Royal Society Collections is the source of the material. If you are using the website for a large project, we would love to hear more, so please contact us.
  • You are not permitted to incorporate any content or other material appearing on this Science in the Making website into any commercial work or publication in any form and no such content or material may be: (i) distributed, published or communicated to the public for commercial purposes; or (ii) reproduced or stored in any electronic database or archive, without our prior written permission.