The RSE was created in 1783 by Royal Charter for “the advancement of learning and useful knowledge”. Its first meetings were held in the library wing of the prinicipal building of Edinburgh University. In 1807 meetings moved to Physicians Hall, 14 George Street, Edinburgh, and in 1810 the RSE acquired 40 - 42 George Street, where it stayed until 1826, when the space became insufficient for its purposes.
In 1826 the RSE moved into rooms in the new Royal Institution on the Mound, sharing the accommodation with the Society of Antiquaries. It stayed until 1909 when it moved into the existing building at 22 - 24 George Street. Its first meeting was held there on 1 March 1909.
The rooms were refurbished in 1960 and again in 1983. In 1994 the RSE purchased the adjacent building at 26 George Street, which was refurbished during 1998 by the RSE Scotland Foundation and linked to the existing rooms to enable further expansion of RSE activities.
A detailed account of the history of the Society was written by Professor Neil Campbell and Professor R M S Smellie (former General Secretary) for the Society’s Bicentenary Celebrations in 1983. This describes in detail the origins and background of the RSE. Copies of this volume are available from the Journals and Archive Officer.
Adam Smith, Joseph Black, James Hutton and Benjamin Franklin are among the founding Fellows.
The Duke of Buccleuch was the first President in 1783. Since then our Presidents have included, Sir Walter Scott, Lord Kelvin and Sir Michael Atiyah.
The bicentennial history of the Royal Society of Edinburgh recorded the work and achievements of the Society and its Fellows. Although mention is made of the former homes and possessions of the Society, these matters were incidental to the theme of the history which was the advancement of learning and useful knowledge, the chartered objectives of the Society. The subsequent purchases by the Society of its premises at 22–26 George Street, Edinburgh, revealed a need for some account of these fine buildings and of their contents for the information of Fellows and to enhance the interest of many who will visit them.
A narrative description of the portraits in oils, busts and statuettes on display in the Rooms of the RSE.