Royal Society of Arts

rsa journal

rsa animate

The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) is a British multi-disciplinary institution, based in London. The name Royal Society of Arts is frequently used for brevity. It was founded in 1754 and was granted a Royal Charter in 1847. Notable members have included Benjamin Franklin, Karl Marx, Adam Smith, Stephen Hawking and Charles Dickens. Its founding charter expressed the purpose of the society as being to ’embolden enterprise, enlarge science, refine art, improve our manufactures and extend our commerce,’ but also of the need to alleviate poverty and secure full employment.

In its early years, the Society offered prizes — which it called ‘premiums’ — for people who could successfully achieve one of a number of published challenges. Captain William Bligh suffered the ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ while attempting to win a premium for shipping breadfruit from the East to the West Indies. He subsequently repeated the voyage and this time succeeded, and the Society awarded him the prize. The Society offered premiums for a very wide range of challenges including devising new forms of machinery and agricultural improvements (which included seeking ways to improve the cultivation of opium poppies).

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