The Royal Society of The UK is celebrating its 350th anniversary this year. In this regard, they have made available some of the trailblazing leaps in Science, as seen in the proceedings of the Royal Society over the years, freely on the internet. From Isaac Newton’s theory of Light and Colours in 1672 to Benjamin Franklin flying a kite in an electric storm in 1752, Bayes’ essay on chance in 1763, Maxwell’s theory of the Electromagnetic field in 1865, Dirac’s theory of the electron in 1928 and Watson and Crick’s DNA structure in 1954.
It was interesting to me how the only example from the 21st century they chose to highlight was a paper on Geoengineering. I wonder if this amounts to an endorsement for research into the field by the Royal Society. With the current international impasse on emissions reductions, it is very likely that Geoengineering will become increasingly prominent in the near future.
Partly due to my background in Electrical Engineering, my favourite paper among all the highlights is Maxwell’s masterpiece tying up Electricity and Magnetism into the unified Electromagnetic theory. Although the paper itself makes difficult reading today, even a cursory look betrays the rigour of the analysis and genius of Maxwell. Even today, it is perhaps the most elegant unification in history of forces and fields that were previously thought to be separate. For the sake of reductionist Physics and the intellectual clarity that goes with it, I hope it doesn’t remain so much longer!