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About the Society

C. Linn (General Content 220px longest edge )The Society maintains the majority of Carl Linnaeus' plant and animal research collections, as well as his personal library, all stored under optimum conservation conditions. These unique collections are of continuing fundamental importance as a primary reference for taxonomy. The collections are enhanced by the Society's own rich library which provides key resources for research. The library is open to Fellows and the general public alike and is a major source of publications on taxonomy, evolutionary biology, the history of the biological sciences as well as the life and work of Linnaeus.

JE Smith Wide (General Content 220px longest edge )The founder and first President of the Society was Sir James Edward Smith (1759-1828). He was amongst those instrumental in its practical establishment as a meeting place for the cultivation of the science of natural history. A scientist and collector, Smith acquired plant and animal specimens originally collected by Linnaeus and augmented them with many specimens of his own.

C.Darwin (General Content 220px longest edge )A. R. Wallace (General Content 220px longest edge )The Society provides a continuous forum for the discussion and advancement of the life sciences. It was at a meeting of the Society in1858 that papers from Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace outlining the theory of evolution by natural selection were first presented. The Society has a remarkable and illustrious history; but it is a history of innovation and to maintain this progress the organisation itself continues to adapt to meet the needs of the next generation of biologists, and the wider community. The Society's current meeting programme provides accessible events for communicating advances in life sciences. Audiences are comprised of a wide range of participants, from technical specialists to the interested individual. Joint conferences are regularly organised and monthly open meetings are held on a variety of topics.

Also being developed is a digital archive to provide worldwide online access to the Society's priceless collections of specimens, manuscripts and letters. By making this primary research material available, the Society continues to support taxonomic and conservation efforts worldwide, as well as providing public pleasure and enjoyment. The Society is committed to keeping its collection in optimum condition, and has a dedicated team of conservators who work on preserving the Society's collections.

Three international journals of world renown in Biology, Botany and Zoology are published monthly. These are available in print, or digitally, from the Society's publisher Wiley-Blackwell.The Linnean newsletter, and its associated Special Issues, are also regularly produced, as well as the quarterly PuLSe magazine for Fellows.

The Society awards medals and prizes for outstanding work in natural history and for published botanical illustations. It also provides grants for research in a wide range of biological subjects. Many of the awards are focused on encouraging field work in the most biologically diverse parts of the world.

The Society's Rooms

The Society occupies a unique and prestigious location in central London. It is one of five Learned Societies built around the courtyard of Burlington House, located on Piccadilly. The Society moved into the original Burlington House in 1857 and occupied part of what was then the town house of the Boyle family. The town house was originally built for Lord Burlington by Sir James Denham, surveyor of the works to Charles II, and was visited by Samuel Pepys in 1668. Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington (1695-1753), put on a new south front and added an Italianate colonnade with archway entrance to the front courtyard. The house passed to the Duke of Devonshire in 1753 who built the Burlington Arcade on adjacent land.

In 1854 the house and gardens were purchased by the Government. In 1856 the Royal Society, the Chemical Society and the Linnean Society were permitted to occupy the rooms as a result of a Memorandum issued by Earl Rose, President of the Royal Society, recommending that the Government provide accomodation "under one roof" for the Learned Societies, an idea which was welcomed by Prince Albert. Various plans for the use of the premises were considered, then in 1867 the Government leased the main building to the Royal Academy of Arts and allocated funds towards new premises for the Learned Societies in purpose-built wings around the courtyard. The architects for the Learned Society rooms were Messrs, Banks and Barry. The Linnean Society moved into its new rooms in November 1873.

The accommodation was designed to meet the requirements of a Learned Society and originally consisted of a Meeting Room on the ground floor, a Library and Council Room on the first floor, with accommodation for the Secretary in an apartment at the top, and rooms for a porter in the basement. The section immediately adjacent to the archway entrance was originally occupied by a post office, which operated until 1904. Now, only the elaborate wooden post box located outside the main entrance remains. In 2010 the refurbished Tower Rooms were opened. These rooms are located over the archway to Burlington House and include an Archive Room and a large board room which is available for hire.