The Royal Society elected Edmond Halley as clerk

Date: 
January 27, 1686

By the mid-1680's, the Royal Society was still feeling the loss of Henry Oldenburg. He had functioned as secretary, clerk, and owner/publisher/editor of Philosophical Transactions until his death in 1677. Philosophical Transactions ceased publication, was replaced temporarily by Hooke's Philosophical Collections, and was resumed in 1683?.

Finding a secretary to handle the correspondence and a clerk to keep the records and finances was another problem. The members, especially curator of experiments Robert Hooke, were busy with their own lives. They Society could not afford to pay much, if anything.

It all came to a decision point in late 1685. Birch's History of the Royal Society (vol 4, pp 453-454) refers to discussion in November and December and finally a vote in January. A letter by Halley to William Molyneux two months later, fills in the details.

On St. Andrews day last, being our Anniversary day of Election, Mr. Pepus was continued president, Mr. Aston Secretary, and Dr. Tancred Robinson chosen in the Room of Mr. Musgrave; everybody seemed satisfied and no discontent appeared anywhere, when on a suddain Mr. Aston, as I suppose, willing to gain better terms of reward from the Society, than formerly, on Decemb. 9 in Councell declared that he would not serve them as Secretary, and therfore desired them to provide some other to supply that office, and that after such a passionate manner, that I fear he has lost severall of his friends by it; the Councell resolved not to be so served for the future, thought it expedient to have only Honorary Secretarys, and a Clerk or Amanuensis upon whom the whole burden of the business should lie, and to give him a fixt salary, so as to make it worth his while, and he to be accountable to the secretarys for the performance of his office; according to which resolutions Sr. John Hoskins and Dr. Gale, were chosen Secretarys, and on Jan. 27 last they chose me for their under officer, with a promise of a Salary of fifty pounds per ann. at least.

At the January meeting, there were two major candidates, Edmond Halley and Hans Sloane. Halley won on the second ballot.

This decision had consequences for Leeuwenhoek because Halley was not interested in publishing letters about what we now call biology or botany. In fact, Leeuwenhoek would not have a letter in Philosophical Transactions for seven years, until Richard Waller succeeded Halley in January 1693.

As a result, Leeuwenhoek continued publishing his own letters.

January 27, at a meeting of the COUNCIL, Mr. PEPYS the president in the chair, and most of the council present, upon consideration had of the charter, were of opinion, that the Society was not limited to the number of their clerks; and that the choice of clerks is to be made by the majority of thirty one at least,
or of the members present, if more than thirty one.

Orders agreed upon by several councils, containing their opinion concerning the qualifications necessary for a clerk to be chosen by the Society till St. Andrew's day following.

  1. Resolved, that it a fellow of the Society be chosen into the office of clerk, he shall before his admission to his office resign his fellowship.
  2. If any person other than a fellow shall be chosen clerk, he shall be incapable of being chosen a fellow, while he holdeth the office of clerk.
  3. That he shall have no other employment.
  4. That he shall conftandy lodge in the college, where the Society meeteth.
  5. That he shall be a fingle man without children.
  6. That he shall obey all orders from the prefident, council, or secretaries.
  7. That he shall be mafter of the Englifh, French, and Latin tongues.
  8. That he shall be able to write a fair and legible hand.
  9. That he shall be completely feen in the mathematics and experimental philofophy.
  10. That all letters of philosophical correspondence fhall be figned by one of the secretaries, and not by the clerk.
  11. That the clerk fhall be accountable to .the council for the performance of his office, as it fhall be from time to time appointed to him.
  12. That his salary for copying, entering, and the performance of all other parts of his office, shall be after the rate of fifty pounds per annum at the least,
    he being found as above, and performing his duty to the satisfaction of the council.

The duty of the clerk.

  1. He shall take the minutes of the Society in a book, and not in loose papers.
  2. He shall draw up the minutes at large against the next meeting.
  3. He shall enter the minutes, after they have been read at the board, in the journal-books.
  4. He shall draw up all letters, and bring them to be signed by one of the secretaries.
  5. He shall index the books of the Society.
  6. He shall keep a catalogue of all the gifts to the Society.

These orders drawn up by the council, touching the qualifications and business of the clerk, were twice read before the Society at the time of election: and it being queried, whether the Society might not dispense with some of the said qualifications, it was answered by the president, that the council only gave them as the result of their thoughts concerning the person fit to serve them; but that they were still at liberty to choose whom they pleased.

At a meeting of the SOCIETY on the same day, Mr. PEPYS president in the chair.

This day being set apart for the choice of a clerk, to be assistant to the secretaries, little else was done; only Dr. PAPIN was ordered to provide some experiments against the next meeting.

Then the result of the debates of the council concerning the qualifications and business of a clerk having been twice read, after some discourse thereupon, the Society proceeded to their choice.

The members prefent were thirty eight, of which upon balloting Dr. SLOANE had 10 voices.

Dr. PAPIN 8
Mr. SALISBURY 4
Mr. HALLEY 16.

But the majority of the members prefent being requilite to an eIe~Hon, the ballot was repeated, and then

Dr. SLOANE had 9 voices
Dr. PAPIN 6
Mr. HALLEY 23.

Mr. HALLEY being most chosen was sworn before the council.

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