The changing power of scientific institutions: the modern histories of Nature and The Royal Society

Camilla Mork Rostvik

Research output: Contribution to journalBook/Film/Article reviewpeer-review


The cultural, social and economic movements of any given time shape the institutions that promote the sciences. In Peter Collins' history of the Royal Society since 1960 we are presented with a history that is influenced by international events, individuals and big business at every turn. Likewise, in Melinda Baldwin's biography of the journal Nature, it is clear that individual editors, financial concerns and political games behind-the-scenes have shaped its history as much as its scientific content. Both institutions are firmly tied to Britain, and the books thus serve as timely reminders of how international and national debate shapes the scientific landscape. In a sense they both ask the question: What is the role of a scientific institution in a time of chaos? Reading both books as the Brexit debate was raging in the UK, one could not help but wonder what consequences that outcome would have for the sciences. Both the Royal Society and Nature publically warned against Brexit, but are now living in a post-Brexit society.1 In the aftermath of the referendum, Collins and Baldwin's books can help us make sense of the historical consequences the international and political realities of Britain have had on the sciences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-49
Number of pages4
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017

Bibliographical note

The AHRC-funded project ‘Publishing the Philosophical Transactions; the economic, social and cultural history of a learned journal 1665–2015’ is currently exploring these questions. Project website: 21.07.2016).


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