1754 - William Shipley's bright idea


William Shipley, a drawing master living in Northampton, founds a new society, based on the idea of using 'premiums' to support improvements in the liberal arts and sciences, and to stimulate enterprise for the common good.  Premiums were cash prizes, awarded for merit, and from 1756 medals were also awarded.

The Society, then known as the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, has its first meeting at Rawthmell's Coffee House, Covent Garden.

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1755 - First premiums awarded

Premiums are awarded for 'Productions, Inventions or Improvements' in Agriculture, Chemistry, Polite Arts, Manufactures, Mechanics, Colonies and Trade.  A key stipulation was that they should be freely available to all and not protected by patent. 

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1760 - First contemporary art exhibition

London's first ever exhibition of living artists is staged by the Society. 
It includes work by Reynolds, Wilson, Roubiliac and over 60 others.

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1761 - First industrial exhibition


The first exhibition of prize-winning models of machines is held by the Society.  From this time, its Repository holds a permanent collection of models of mechanical inventions and agricultural machinery, sent by inventors hoping to win a premium.

Patented models are excluded and the public are given the opportunity to  examine the latest inventions and profit from them if they wish.

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1770 - Awards offered for reducing smoke emissions


The Society begins its long-standing interest in environmental issues with awards to industry for reducing smoke emissions.

This trend would continue - in the 19th century Fellows suggested ideas to eliminate the smoking house chimney, and in the 1950s the RSA saw lectures on 'Cities Without Smoke' and the pollution problems of detergents.

The Society's interest in such issues continued with the Arts and Ecology and Carbon Limited projects. View more information on the RSA's current environment-related projects.

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1774 - The Society moves house

The organisation had no fixed base in its early years, moving from locations in Charing Cross, the Strand and Fleet Street. 

In 1770, the reknown architects, Robert Adam and his brothers, offer to house the Society in their Adelphi building project, a major development on the banks of the Thames. 

The Society moves in to what is known as the RSA House on John Adam Street (then John Street) in 1774. Originally these were only two houses in the Adelphi complex but later developments saw the House expand considerably.



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1777 - The Great Room paintings commence


James Barry, an artist from Cork, accepts a commission to produce 'a series of pictures analogous to the views of the Institution'.

The resulting work, The Progress of Human Knowledge and Culture, decorates the Great Room today. It comprises six pictures, and took the artist seven years to paint.

The work has been described as 'Britain's late, great answer to the Sistine Chapel' by the art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon.

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1783 - The first publication of the Society's activities

The Society publishes the Transactions, the first full record of its activities and the premium awards available to the public.

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1805 - An invention to replace children as chimney sweeps is rewarded


The Society's Gold Medal is awarded to George Smart for his invention for cleaning chimneys without employing children.  This contraption of rods and brushes remains the tool of the trade to this day.

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1806 - Pioneering tree-planting campaign reaches its height

As early as 1757, the Society offered prizes for the planting of oak, chestnut and elm trees, and awards continued until 1835.

The nation's tree stocks had been seriously depleted, mainly for use in ship building during the Napoleonic wars and replenishing forests was not common practice.

The high point of the campaign came in 1806, when over a million trees were planted. 

In total it is estimated that some 50 million trees were planted.

The initiative was revived in 2004 as part of the Society's 250th anniversary celebrations as part of its ongoing commitment to environmental issues. 

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1847 - A Royal Charter is granted


The Society is granted a Royal Charter in June.  This was approved by Prince Albert, then President of the Society.

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1851 - The Great Exhibition opens


The Society initiates The Great Exhibition. This was Britain's first international exhibition - a celebration of modern technology and international design.  It was held at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park from 1 May to 15 October 1851.

The organisation was responsible for raising funds for prizes. Some £68,000 was raised, nearly four million pounds in today's money.


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1852 - Britain's first photography exhibition


The first ever public exhibition of photographs in Great Britain is held in the Great Room of the Society's House.

The exhibition led to the formation of a Photographic Society, later to become the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain

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1852 - The Society's first Journal


The Transactions, are replaced by the Society's first weekly Journal. 

Today all Fellows receive the quarterly RSA Journal.

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1856 - Launch of national examinations


The Society becomes the first organisation to offer vocational qualifications on a national basis. These exams are specifically for the benefit of the working class, the education of which was considered fundamental to the nation's economic prosperity. The first exams include Botany, Animal Physiology and Roman History.

The exams became the prototype for many later schemes, leading the way for the Oxford and Cambridge 'locals', the Science and Art department examinations and the University of London's public examinations. They were also popular in other English-speaking nations, notably in Australia. 

In 1987 the RSA Examinations Board was established as a separate company, until it was sold and merged with the Oxford and Cambridge Examinations Boards in 1997, forming the OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA) examination board.

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1862 - Draft of a bill to establish artistic copyright

Safeguarding artists' intellectual property has been a key concern of the Society from Victorian times to the present day.

In March 1858 the Society appointed a Committee to investigate copyright. At this time there was almost no copyright at all on works of art.

Various attempts were made to present a draft Bill on copyright to Parliament, but these met with strong opposition.  However, when finally passed in 1862, the Bill became an important reform, remaining the law on the matter for many years.

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1864 - First Albert Medal


The first Albert Medal is awarded for 'distinguished merit in Arts, Manufactures and Commerce' to Rowland Hill, the inventor of the postage stamp.

From 2007 the medal has been awarded 'to an individual who has contributed to social innovation, usually a UK citizen'.

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1866 - Launch of a food preservation initiative


The Society begins to look at innovative ways to preserve and import food. This comes in response to a serious food supply problem due to rapid population growth in the 1860s.

This prefigures the Society's 'Focus on Food' campaign of the 1990s, which aimed to raise the profile of practical food education and help secure the status of food in the National Curriculum. This emphasis on good health continues in the RSA's Opening Minds schools curriculum.

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1867 - First memorial plaques in London


The Society begins a pioneering scheme of erecting memorial plaques on London houses which had once been the homes of people of note. The first plaque was erected at Lord Byron's birthplace, 24 Holles Street in Cavendish Square. 

Today English Heritage is responsible for erecting what is now known as the Blue Plaque Scheme.

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1872 - A campaign for girls' education begins

The Society appoints a committee to promote improvements in the education of girls.  This led to the establishment of the Girls' Public Day School Trust, which aimed to provide education for girls at fees affordable to less well-off families. 

The Trust continues to operate today.

 

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1876 - The beginnings of the Royal College of Music


Though music had not been one of the 'arts' originally promoted by the Society, in the 1870s it began to investigate 'the present state of musical education at home and abroad'. The Society used foreign musical education as a template and visited musical schools in Paris, Vienna, Milan and Prague.

The building of a National Training School for Music was begun in 1873 in South Kensington. The Society offered four scholarships to the new school which opened in 1876 with a total of 67 scholarships funded by various institutions.

The school was reconstituted in 1882 and became the Royal College of Music.

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1877 - First demonstration of the telephone

Fellow Alexander Graham Bell gives the first practical demonstration of his new invention, the telephone, at the Society's House.

This is the first to take place anywhere in Britain. Bell was later the recipient of the Albert Medal for his groundbreaking invention.

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1908 - The Society becomes 'Royal'

In 1908 the Society was granted permission to use the prefix 'Royal' in the title.

This was approved by King Edward VII who was Patron of the Society at that time.

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1924 - First industrial design competition

The Industrial Design Competition is launched, to bring together the work of young designers and the needs of manufacturers.

Firms and individuals are approached to offer prizes and in the first competition over a £1000 of prizes and travelling scholarships are awarded, equivalent to £30,000 today.

The Industrial Design Competition is now known as the Student Design Awards.

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1927 - Preservation of Ancient Cottages scheme launched


A groundbreaking campaign for the preservation of ancient cottages is launched.

A conference in 1927, chaired by the Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, establishes a substantial fund for the project. The appeal was supported by Thomas Hardy, who commented that he had seen 'many venerable buildings in the West of England vanish under the hands of their owners'. 

Many individual building were saved but the largest purchase was the entire village of West Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, dating from the 16th to 19th centuries. Substantial conservation work was carried out and in 1934 the village was handed over to the National Trust, becoming was one of their first major acquisitions.

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1936 - Faculty of the Royal Designers for Industry founded


The distinction 'Royal Designer for Industry' is to encourage a high standard of industrial design and to enhance the status of designers. It was inspired by the work of the Industrial Arts Committee founded in 1917.

The distinction of RDI is still bestowed to this day and regarded as the highest honour to be obtained in the United Kingdom in the field of Industrial Design.

Find out more about the RDIs

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1951 - The Society joins celebrations for the Festival of Britain


The Society's contribution to the Festival of Britain, an event to commemorate the centenary of the Great Exhibition, is the 'Exhibition of Exhibitions'. This is centred on five pioneering exhibitions held by the Society: The first exhibition of contemporary art (1760), the first industrial exhibition (1761), the first exhibitions of industrial design (1847-50), the first international exhibition (1851) and the first photography exhibition (1852).

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1956 - First Benjamin Franklin medal

The first Benjamin Franklin Medal is awarded to mark the 200th anniversary of Franklin's membership of the Society.  The first medal, which is given to forwarding the cause of Anglo American understanding in the fields of Art, Manufacturers and Commerce, goes to Professor Frederic C. Williams, a pioneer in electrical engineering at the University of Manchester.

Today the award is given to 'a global "big thinker", who has shifted public debate in an innovative way and has contributed to public discourse on human progress'. 

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1977 - The RSA House expands


The current RSA building is made up of five separate properties, of which numbers 6 and 8 were built for purpose. The adjoining buildings were acquired first by lease in 1957 and then purchased freehold in 1977. Numbers 2 and 4 were originally domestic properties, while no. 18 Adam Street was a tavern, featuring in  Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers.

In 1990 the buildings' vaults, first intended for transformation as private residences, were developed to offer conference facilities and a dining area for Fellows. The vaults originally ran from under the Society's house and the Royal Terrace to the Thames,  much wider then before the construction of Victoria Embankment.

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1987 - The Society becomes the RSA


The organisation is rebranded as the RSA.

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1993 - Tomorrow's Company


The RSA brings together 25 of the UK's top businesses under the leadership of Sir Anthony Cleaver, Chairman of IBM UK, to develop a shared vision of Tomorrow's Company.

The objective is to stimulate greater competitive performance by encouraging UK business leaders, and those who influence their decision-making, to re-examine the sources of sustainable business success.

The RSA's concern with commerce and industry continues today in our current project on shareholder activism, Tomorrow's Investor. Find out more about the RSA's work on enterprise.

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1994 - Fourth Plinth project


The Fourth Plinth Project is launched by the RSA in 1994 with the aim of finding a permanent statue or sculpture for the famously vacant plinth in Trafalgar Square. The focus of the project soon became one of stimulating public interest in contemporary art and promoting debate about the long term future of the plinth.

The first sculpture, Ecce Homo by Mark Wallinger, was unveiled on 21st July 1999. It was followed in March 2000 by Bill Woodrow's Regardless of History and by Rachel Whiteread's Monument in September 2000.

Today, the Mayor of London's Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group is responsible for the current and future commission of sculptures on the Fourth Plinth. The Group includes the RSA Head of Arts, Michaela Crimmin.

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1996 - Campaign for Learning


The RSA launches a campaign for lifelong learning in schools, workplaces, families and communities.

The Campaign for Learning is now a national charity which is the only national organisation promoting all aspects of learning, working as an agent of change for the cause of lifelong learning.

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1997 - Archive project begins


The RSA begins a project to catalogue and preserve the wealth of the historically important archives held by the organisation.

Find out more on the RSA Archive.

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1999 - Opening Minds schools curriculum launched

RSA Opening Minds is a curriculum framework for schools.  It is based on teaching specific 'competences', helping young people to learn practical life skills in a challenging world.  The curriculum sprang from a conviction that the way young people were being educated was, and to some extent remains, increasingly distanced from their real needs.

There are now over 150 schools using the Opening Minds framework of competences, and the RSA are continuously developing this innovative curriculum.

Find out more about Opening Minds

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2003 - New Library opens


At the first meeting held by the Society it was decided that a book should be bought. After this the collection grew through purchase and presents, and today the Library houses a large contemporary collection of books relevant to the RSA's work.

Find out more about the RSA Library

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2004 - 250th anniversary of the RSA


The RSA runs a series of commemorative events to celebrate their 250th anniversary.

Royal Mail issues six commemorative stamps to celebrate the anniversary. These RSA Commemorative stamps were designed for the Royal Mail by Derek Birdsall, an RSA Royal Designer for Industry (RDI).

A time capsule is buried at Castle Gresley in Derbyshire in an area known as 'Fellows Wood'. This contains many artefacts commemorating the anniversary and will be unearthed in 2254, on the RSA's 500th anniversary.

 

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2005 - Adelphi Charter on intellectual property rights

In October the Adelphi Charter on Creativity, Innovation and Intellectual Property is launched, a charter responding to the social and technological demands of the 21st century.

It was prepared by an International Commission of experts from the arts, creative industries, human rights, law, economics, science, R&D, technology, the public sector and education.

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2005 - The WEEE man


The RSA commissions a sculpture: a remarkable human-like figure fashioned from the amount of electrical waste one UK citizen consumes in a lifetime.  The WEEE Man, designed by Paul Bonomini, is a stark depiction of the individual's contribution to electrical and electronic waste. 

The project responds to the WEEE Directive which aims to both reduce the amount of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) being produced, and encourage everyone to reuse, recycle and recover it. This is the fastest growing municipal waste source in the UK. 

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2005 - Arts and Ecology launched


A project to examine and address the environmental emergencies of the 21st century through the engagement of artists is launched.

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2006 - Carbon Limited personal carbon trading project begins


The RSA launches a three-year project exploring personal carbon trading. Carbon Limited is bringing together expertise from the commercial, social and financial sectors to subject ideas about personal carbon trading to rigorous analysis.

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2007 - RSA Drugs Commission report published

The RSA Commission on Illegal Drugs, Communities and Public Policy is established to take a fresh look at Government policy on illegal drugs.

The Commission's report, Drugs - facing facts, was published in March 2007, and had a significant impact on the new national drug strategy, Drugs: protecting families and communities.

Find out more about the RSA Commission on Illegal Drugs, Communities and Public Policy.

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2007 - RSA Networks: the 21st century Fellowship launched


The RSA launches a new project to transform the Fellowship into a dynamic network of civic innovators delivering positive social change.

Find out more about RSA Fellowship.

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2008 - The RSA Tipton Academy opens


Continuing the RSA's strong commitment to education, the Tipton Academy gets the go ahead from Government and is due to open in September 2008.

The RSA Tipton Academy will be in north west Sandwell, replacing Willingsworth High School. The aim of the Academy is to encourage educational achievement and develop practical real-world skills in all students, regardless of background. It will use the increasingly popular Opening Minds curriculum, developed by the RSA.

Find out more about the RSA Academy

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Famous Fellows from 1754 - 1801

Founded as a membership organisation, the RSA has admitted men and women on equal terms since it was established in 1754. The term ‘Fellow’ has been used only since 1914.

From an initial membership of twelve, the Fellowship has now grown to over 27,000 worldwide. Fellows have the option to put the letters FRSA after their name to show their connection to the RSA and their commitment to civic innovation and social change.

Here are some famous Fellows from this period:

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Joshua Steele - 1700-1796

A pioneer in the fields of linguistics, phonetics and musical theory, Joshua Steele was also an enlightened and humanitarian plantation owner.

On arriving at his inherited plantation in Barbados in 1770, he abolished the use of the whip, introduced wages and gave his slaves the opportunity to rent land. He also founded the 'Society for Arts of Barbados' in 1781 in order to develop industries for the poor white population of the island.

Links

National Register of Archives

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Benjamin Franklin - 1706-1790


One of the most influential and important Founding Fathers of the United States of America, Franklin was a statesman and diplomat, political theorist and politician, author and printer, scientist and inventor.

Franklin was initially a corresponding member of the Society but from 1757, when he moved to London, he was very actively involved in its work, most notably as Chair of the Committee of Colonies and Trade.

Franklin's legacy and contribution to the RSA lives on with the Benjamin Franklin Medal, awarded since 1956.

Links
Benjamin Franklin House
National Register of Archives

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Samuel Johnson - 1709-1784


An eminent author, Samuel Johnson is one of the most famous figures in the history of the English language and is perhaps best-known for his Dictionary, published in 1755.

Johnson took a great deal of interest in the Society, attending meetings and participating in debates. He was however no public speaker. He told Boswell (his biographer) that he had 'several times tried to speak at the Society of Arts and Sciences but had found that he could not get on'.

Johnson appears in James Barry's mural in the RSA House's Great Room.

Links
The Johnson Society
Samuel Johnson Birthplace and Museum
National Register of Archives

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Elizabeth Montagu - 1718-1800


A social reformer and patron of the arts, Elizabeth Montagu is most well known as a writer and one of the founders of the ‘Bluestocking Society', an early and pioneering women's literary group.

Montagu was one of the Society's early members. This typifies the RSA's enlightened views as a progressive organisation, which has admitted women from its foundation.

Montagu appears in James Barry's mural in the RSA House's Great Room.

Links
National Register of Archives

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Richard Arkwright - 1732-1792


Richard Arkwright was an inventor and socially progressive factory owner. His mill and factory village at Cromford in Derbyshire became the first successful water powered cotton spinning mill in the world. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Arkwright recognised that providing adequate housing and good working conditions for his workers led to increased productivity. His mill and village became an international model on which many others were based.

Arkwright was a great friend of the Society's Secretary at the time, Samuel More, and in 1789 he purchased a house in the Adelphi development close to the Society.

Links
The Arkwright Society

National Register of Archives

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Famous Fellows from 1802 - 1852

Founded as a membership organisation, the RSA has admitted men and women on equal terms since it was established in 1754. The term ‘Fellow’ has been used only since 1914.

From an initial membership of twelve, the Fellowship has now grown to over 27,000 worldwide. Fellows have the option to put the letters FRSA after their name to show their connection to the RSA and their commitment to civic innovation and social change.

Here are some famous Fellows from this period:

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Michael Faraday - 1791-1867


Michael Faraday was a pioneering chemist and physicist who made a significant contribution to the study of electromagnetism and electrochemistry.

Faraday was one of the early recipients of the RSA's Albert Medal received 'for discoveries in electricity, magnetism and chemistry which in their relation to the industries of the world have so largely promoted Arts, Manufactures and Commerce'.

Links
National Register of Archives

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Rowland Hill - 1795-1879


A teacher and social reformer, Rowland Hill campaigned for a comprehensive reform of the postal system. He is usually credited with originating the basic concepts of the modern postal service, including the invention of the penny postage stamp.

Hill's many achievements were recognised by the Society when he became the first recipient of the Albert Medal for his postal reforms.
Links
National Register of Archives

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Isambard Kingdom Brunel - 1806-1859


One of the most innovative and multi-talented engineers of the 19th century, Brunel was responsible for the design of tunnels, bridges, railway lines and ships.

He was very actively involved with the Society, serving on the Society's Council between 1848 and 1851, and as Vice President from 1849 - 1851. He was also a member of the Committee for Mechanics and Engineering, and personally contributed to the funding of the Great Exhibition.

Links
National Register of Archives

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Charles Dickens - 1812-1870

A journalist, social reformer and one of the worlds most celebrated novelists, Charles Dickens used his writings to highlight the lives of the forgotten Victorian poor. He campaigned on issues such as public health and the workhouses. He also visited the USA and lectured against slavery.

His involvement with the Society also centred around social issues. In 1850 he was appointed to the Committee for the Working Classes, advising the commissioners of the Great Exhibition. He also served on the committee to promote the 'legislative recognition of the rights of inventions in arts, manufactures and science'.

Links
The Dickens Birthplace Museum
The Dickens Museum London
The Dickens Fellowship
National Register of Archives

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William Morris - 1834-1896


A prominent designer and author, William Morris was also a leader in the emerging Socialist movement. He strongly promoted the burgeoning ideas of human rights and his protectiveness of the environment led to him to being 'recognized as a founding father of green politics'.

Morris was strongly involved with the Society and its work in the fields of design. He became a member of the Committee of the Applied Arts Section 1887 and delivered a paper to that Section which was awarded a Silver Medal.

Links
The William Morris Society
National Register of Archives

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Alexander Graham Bell - 1847-1922


A pioneer in the field of telecommunications, Bell's invention of the telephone was the foundation for the development of modern mass communication. He also did much important work as a teacher of the deaf.

In 1877 Bell undertook a practical demonstration of his new invention at the Society's House; the first to take place anywhere in Britain. In 1902 he was also the recipient of the Albert Medal for his invention of the telephone.

Links
National Register of Archives

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Famous Fellows from 1853 - 1907

Founded as a membership organisation, the RSA has admitted men and women on equal terms since it was established in 1754. The term ‘Fellow’ has been used only since 1914.

From an initial membership of twelve, the Fellowship has now grown to over 27,000 worldwide. Fellows have the option to put the letters FRSA after their name to show their connection to the RSA and their commitment to civic innovation and social change.

Here are some famous Fellows from this period:

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Karl Marx - 1818-1883

Karl Marx was a 19th century philosopher, political economist, and revolutionary. Often called the father of communism, Marx was both a scholar and a political activist, and one of the most influential thinkers in world history.

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Edward Lutyens - 1869-1944


Sir Edward Lutyens was a leading 20th-century British architect who is known for his innovative adaptations of traditional architectural styles to the requirements of his era. He designed many English country houses and was instrumental in the design and building of New Delhi.

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Enid Marx - 1902-1998


A well-respected designer, illustrator and painter, Enid Marx was interested in the ideas of designing for industry. This resonated very closely with the distinction of Royal Designer for Industry (RDI) which was established by the RSA in 1936 to encourage a high standard of industrial design and enhance the status of designers.

Marx became only the second women to gain the distinction of RDI in 1944.

National Register of Archives

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Famous Fellows from 1908 - 1953

Founded as a membership organisation, the RSA has admitted men and women on equal terms since it was established in 1754. The term ‘Fellow’ has been used only since 1914.

From an initial membership of twelve, the Fellowship has now grown to over 27,000 worldwide. Fellows have the option to put the letters FRSA after their name to show their connection to the RSA and their commitment to civic innovation and social change.

Here are some famous Fellows from this period:

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Marie Stopes - 1880-1958


Marie Stopes was a Scottish author, campaigner for women's rights and pioneer in the field of family planning. Stopes edited the journal Birth Control News, and was the author of the controversial and influential Married Love.

The modern organization that bears her name, Marie Stopes International, works in 38 countries across the world, ranging from the UK, Bolivia, and the Philippines through to Pakistan, Kenya and Papua New Guinea.

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Caroline Haslett - 1895-1957


An influential and groundbreaking electrical engineer and electricity industry administrator, Caroline Haslett was the first secretary of the Women's Engineering Society from 1919 to 1932. She also founded the Electrical Association for Women in 1924 and became its first director. In 1950 she became the president of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women.

Haslett was very active in the Society and became the first women to sit on the Society's Council between 1941 and 1955. Her paper of 1941 entitled 'Women in Industry' was awarded a silver medal.

Links
National Register of Archives

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Famous Fellows from 2001 - Present

Founded as a membership organisation, the RSA has admitted men and women on equal terms since it was established in 1754. The term ‘Fellow’ has been used only since 1914.

From an initial membership of twelve, the Fellowship has now grown to over 27,000 worldwide. Fellows have the option to put the letters FRSA after their name to show their connection to the RSA and their commitment to civic innovation and social change.

Here are some famous Fellows from this period:

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Nelson Mandela - 1918-Present


Nelson Mandela is a former President of South Africa, the first to be elected in fully representative democratic elections. Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist and leader of the African National Congress and its armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe. He spent 27 years in prison, much of it on Robben Island, on convictions for crimes that included sabotage committed while he spearheaded the struggle against apartheid.

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Robert Winston - 1940-Present


Robert Winston is a doctor, scientist, politician and television presenter. As Professor of Fertility Studies at Hammersmith, Winston led the IVF team which pioneered preimplantation genetic diagnosis, which identifies defects in human embryos. He also is a well-known television presenter.

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Lord Puttnam - 1941-Present


David Puttnam is an Oscar-winning film producer and social activist. He was chairman of the National Film and Television School for many years, and founded Skillset, which trains young people to become members of the film and television industries. In 2002 he was elected UK president of Unicef.

In 2007 he was presented with the RSA's Bicentenary Medal.

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Ken Robinson - 1950-Present

Ken Robinson is an internationally recognised leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources. He has worked with national governments in Europe and Asia, with international agencies, Fortune 500 companies, national and state education systems, non-profit corporations and some of the world's leading cultural organisations.

Ken Robinson was the 2008 recipient of the RSA's Benjamin Franklin Medal.

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Famous Fellows from 1954 - 2000

Founded as a membership organisation, the RSA has admitted men and women on equal terms since it was established in 1754. The term ‘Fellow’ has been used only since 1914.

From an initial membership of twelve, the Fellowship has now grown to over 27,000 worldwide. Fellows have the option to put the letters FRSA after their name to show their connection to the RSA and their commitment to civic innovation and social change.

Here are some famous Fellows from this period:

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Peter Ustinov - 1921-2004

An esteemed actor and playwright, Ustinov was also a dedicated humanitarian. He founded the Peter Ustinov Foundation, a children's organisation committed to pursuing his humanitarian interests through the education and protection of children.

Ustinov had many links with the RSA. He gave a lecture entitled 'The playwright' as part of a series of three lectures on 'The Modern Theatre' in 1952 and was the second ever recipient of the Benjamin Franklin Medal in 1958 'for his work in the field of drama'. Unable to collect his award in person at the time, he finally visited the House in 1997 to chair the Design Council lecture 'Breaking the Age Barrier' and collect the medal.

Links
Peter Ustinov

The Peter Ustinov Foundation
National Register of Archives

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David Attenborough - 1926-Present


As well as enjoying a distinguished broadcasting career that now spans more than fifty years, David Attenborough is also an environmentalist and promoter of the issues surrounding global warming.

He was the recipient of the 1990 Benjamin Franklin Medal, which was presented to him by Prince Philip, the Society's President, at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.

Links
David Attenborough- Life on air

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Professor Stephen Hawking - 1942-Present

The author of the bestselling book 'A Brief History of Time', Stephen Hawking is best known for his work on black holes.

In 1999 he was the recipient of the Albert Medal which was awarded to him 'for making physics more accessible, understandable and exciting and opening the subject to a wider audience through his books and television programmes'.

Links
Stephen Hawking's official website
National Register of Archives

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Mary Robinson - 1944-Present

Mary Robinson was the first female President of Ireland, serving from 1990 to 1997, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, from 1997 to 2002. She first rose to prominence as an academic, barrister, campaigner and member of the Irish senate (1969-1989).

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Alex James - 1968-Present


Musician, ex-member of Blur, farmer and environmental campaigner, Alex James is a supporter of the RSA's Carbon Limited project. In November 2006, James appeared on The Daily Politics Show discussing the idea of carbon trading, he was also a speaker at the RSA lecture 'Climate Change: the radical vision of personal carbon trading' held in Bournemouth in September 2007.

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1754 - 1801
1802 - 1852
1853 - 1907
1908 - 1953
1954 - 2000
2001 - Present