Invisible College

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The Invisible College was the name given to themselves by an group of like-minded scientists and natural philosophers in England in the mid-17th century.[1] The informal association is considered to have be one of the origins of the Royal Society.[2]

The purpose of the invisible college was to encourage each other to develop scientific knowledge through experiments and other kinds of investigation.[3]

Some of the members of the Invisible College were among the founders of the Royal Society in 1660,[4] including Robert Boyle, John Wilkins and Samuel Hartlib.[2]

Modern use[change | edit source]

The concept of invisible college was developed in the sociology of science by Diane Crane,[5] building on de Solla Price's work on citation networks. It is related, but significantly different, from other concepts of expert communities, such as 'Epistemic communities',[6] or 'Community of Practice'.[7] Recently, the concept was applied to the global network of communications among scientists by Caroline S. Wagner.[8]

In fiction it is mentioned in the novel The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown, and was the inspiration for the Unseen University in the works of Terry Pratchett.

Related pages[change | edit source]

References[change | edit source]

  1. Kassell, Lauren. "Invisible College (act. 1646-1647)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. 2.0 2.1 Lyons, Henry 1944. The Royal Society 1660-1940 : a history of its administration under its charters. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1–19 OCLC 59841604
  3. The Royal Society
  4. "Robert Boyle’s astonishing scientific wishlist," The Royal Society: 350 Years of Science (exhibition). June 2010.
  5. Crane, Diana 1972. Invisible colleges: diffusion of knowledge in scientific communities. University of Chicago Press: Chicago and London. ISBN 0226118576
  6. Haas P. 1990. Obtaining international environmental protection through epistemic consensus, Millennium Journal of International Studies 19:3, 347-363.
  7. Wenger, Etienne 1998. Communities of practice: learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-66363-2
  8. Wagner, Caroline S. 2008. The new Invisible College: science for development. Brooking Press: Washington DC.