The world's greatest autograph book



I'm in the library of the Royal Society in London and the Society has one of the best autograph books in the world and this is Keith Moore who's our librarian who is going to introduce me to the book and show me the most interesting signatures here oh here's the Royal Society's charter book and if we open it you'll see immediately what's going on here it opens with the Royal coat of arms because of course we're the Royal Society and then you will find the Royal Society's own coat of arms with the motto nullius in verba take nobody's word for it and then the reason it's called the charter book is because the Royal Society's charters are reproduced in the text on the vellum here this is not on paper this is animal skin they're rather stiffer than paper they're slightly slick to the touch I'm wearing gloves so it's harder to feel that but you can actually if you run your fingers over you can feel the NAP of the the animal but you'll see this is really where the book gets very interesting indeed the first page of the signatures and the head of the list here is Charles the second he was there all studies first patron the man who put the royal into the Royal Society the other Royals here the one you've probably heard of his Prince Rupert who was interested in science is that ribbit from Prince Rupert's drop it is indeed so he did do experiments after all Society and elsewhere as the glass drops that he produced are quite famous each successive monarch and therefore each successive patron of the Royal Society gets their own highly decorated royal page and if I turn the page here this is the first page where you get the fellowship proper so these are the leading scientists from 1660 onwards and the book is a continuous record of all of the fellows of the Royal Society will one or two notable exceptions and if you examine this page you'll immediately begin to see the great scientists of the 17th century here we got there then said he would Robert Hooke down Bolton squeezed into the foot of the page yes John Wallace here and John Wilkins Christopher Wren's on this page as well and Christopher Wren who built sand Paul's Cathedral in London that's absolutely right well then let's turn the page and see if we can see Newton and here is quite quite a small signature and you can see immediately the man under Isaac Newton is being gradually raised because Newton so popular people was point to his signature and run their fingers along it and therefore it's just erasing the ink from the surface of the vellum people say is that really a sick Newton and rub out the poor guy underneath here's John Flamsteed the astronomer royal who is one of the people that you argued with and it's interesting that he didn't put his name in the column he's put it slightly to one side and just above a Newton D is that just a coincidence or do you think this it could be a coincidence but it's it's it's a nice idea that he just might have decided to get one up on the great man this is Edmund Halley the astronomer sea captain mathematician and many other things besides we know how many signatures are in this play I don't think we've ever counted them and it's interesting that some of them you can see have actually been crossed out that's probably non-payment of subscriptions to the Royal Society Hugo is a another royal page this is one of the George's again not terribly colorful but we'll come to some really highly decorated pages quite soon it is in its way an almost complete history of science it's stored in controlled environmental vaults so it's brought out when fellows sign the book once here new fellows in terms of its value nothing like this has ever been sold at auction so it's anybody's guess how much this would cost you but I can see here well yes sir he is young Davey just being elected a fellow the Ross ID Humphrey Davy there so he signed the book this is John Dalton who first prepared the theory of atoms in its modern form yeah again this is a royal page a roleplay just created winner a new monarch is put on the throne they become patron of the Royal Society as a serving monarch therefore a new page is created for them this is William this is Charles darling are these scientists already famous when they sign the book not necessarily Darwin is elected in 1839 so 20 years before on the Origin of Species is is written and published at this stage he's just returned from his Beagle voyage and he's sorting out specimens and beginning to lecture and talk about what he's seen on his voyages so he's not really at the point where he's a leading scientist so he's still quite a young figure but what their eyesight he is very good at is recognizing potential and backing winners but here's Queen Victoria it is a whole swathe of scientific endeavor in one volume here we have the signature of one of the most famous American scientists this is Benjamin Franklin of course he lived in London and he was on council of the Royal Society every time I look at it I find new signatures and this is really as close as one can get to many of these scientists to see something that's actually been written by them this one is one of my favorite signatures this is the signature of Mendeleev every time there are Russian visitors I showed them the signature and just in the interests of balance here we have Alfred Russel Wallace we saw Darwin's signature so here's the other big figure in the evolution story as a royal page 1901 and you have the four corners of Empire here so you have the ostrich kangaroo all that is an elephant here and beaver for Canada presumably see Rutherford's right at the foot of this one this george v thought of it and the future King Edward the eighth who was only King for a short time before he implicated we're coming increasingly up to date this is the 20th century and two good signatures at the top of this page he is Sigmund Freud and the Charter book was taken to him one of the very rare instances where that's happened Freud had gotten out of the continent so this is the period when the Nazis were coming to power he had to escape from his home longtime home in Vienna and he ended up in London in Hampstead so the Charter book was taken to Hampstead for him to sign he was quite infirm at that time and there are some nice photographs of Freud in the garden of his Hampstead home with the Charter book and look underneath we've got Julian Huxley there a great great scientific family Huxley of course a fantastic girl zoologist and a great figure in popularizing science she is Max Born look at dad the max born of courses Feinstein's great correspondent a fantastic physicist Einstein is one of those signatures we wish we had in the book and we don't know why the Royal Society didn't manage to get him but he was a fellow he was a fellow he was elected after his his great works and the Nobel Prize in 1921 he was certainly in London during the 1930s in 1933 but for some reason we didn't manage to get him for the Charter book and then off he went to the u.s. of course this is Niels Bohr the first person to apply quantum ideas to the structure of the atom so this is 1945 the first women were elected to the Royal Society there were two of them Kathleen Lonsdale and Marjorie Stevenson Lonsdale the one people have really heard of so here's Kathleen Lonsdale see it's Marjorie Stevenson's who else do we have here well he is his Barnes Wallis of a bouncing bomb Fame on the same page and here we have Glenn Siebel after whom the elements seaborgium was named and also discovered a lot of the transuranium elements his Frank Whittle the inventor of the jet engine is the Linus Pauling down here is that all – yes and here's Dorothy ball Needham this is max from Lowry who was one the people who was very important in the development of crystallography here we go now this is the current Royal page so the Queen is our current patron he is head of the list there but many other Royals are on that page so Prince Charles is on that Prince William you so this year so this is the Japanese Emperor who's very good marine biologist so he gets to sign and I think we have Gustavus Sweden on there as well this is Lisa Meitner the woman scientist after whom element 109 was named Peter Higgs his signature gives mass to the book whoa and he is almost next door to Margaret Thatcher who as Prime Minister was elected she caused a big row and no Prime Minister has been elected since then I'm Cassandra and underneath is David Attenborough the world famous naturalist you get pages where you get four or five fantastically big figures and you know it's it's ones better than the next almost so you do get very very excited when you're looking at it if here's another famous name what was the experience like of actually signing the book mostly well I will I must say I was quite nervous and you can see it's not a very elegant signature but I didn't at least blot it even though my name's in the same book as Charles Darwin or some of these other people one couldn't possibly imagine that I'm on the same level as them but it's still quite nice to be recognised this is the end of the book well not quite the end of the book so this is the last input intake of Fellows of the Royal Society from from last year from 2013 now you can see there are blank spaces here there's a blank space for the obligation that has to be written in and columns and columns of vellum waiting to be filled up and this we hope will be the great scientists of the future so if you're looking at this movie is that you are you one day going to be in the pages of the Royal Society as a signature in its charter book you have to be very good to get there but in a way that's an incentive to do great science you

48 thoughts on “The world's greatest autograph book

  1. That one guy reminds me of Richard Wright from Pink Floyd just a bit…but this is amazing.  At first I thought it was gonna be a kinda dull video but upon watching, it's amazing to see all these legenday and historical figures' signatures right there in front of your face, and it's amazing how the pages look like brand new still.  Cool video, so cool I had to watch it twice.

  2. I have nothing but goosebumps left after watching this video…
    A testament to humankind's progress…

  3. WOO!!! Professor Poliakoff is the MAN!!! Modern man of Science. Elements they lay down to you like lovers! 

  4. We really are standing on the shoulders of giants. Although the colorful royal pages are so beautiful, the ones that really matter are on the black and white section.

    So inspiring!

  5. this must be one of the few things in this world that are TRUELY PRICELESS. so amazing to see, thx professor!

  6. If names are being erased coz "people" touch it… How about YOU stop fucking touching it to show what u mean!

  7. A great collection of signatures from the greatest of what our species had to offer with the exception of those "royal" pages so ridiculously out of place in such a book. How abnormal to place the brightest minds who scrutinized the inner workings of our world and designed the future along with some people, vestigial symbols of the medieval feudalism, symbols of the backwards and barbaric monarchic system that is built on placing a random individual no matter how weak, stupid, or worthless in the position of highest social importance just because they happened to be born in a certain family. The very system that devalues intellect and promotes empty greatness achieved not through merit, or aspiration but through an unnatural forced selection. Oh, the insult and the injustice to those bright minds to be placed one under the other, crowded on blank pages while those who deserve no gratitude and who live their lives one PR stunt after another are placed comfortably on tinsel decorated pages. Seems like we still have a long way to go until we reach that level to be able to call ourselves evolved and to understand what's of value and what's worthless.

  8. Sure would be nice to actually see some of the signatures instead of obscuring video effects, wiggly camera, and quick cuts.

  9. I'm surprised Stephen Hawking wasn't mentioned. I read an article in Omni magazine in 1989 that described his inscription of the tome before he became physically incapable of doing so.

  10. I would like to see more new posts from your channel! I love listening to the professor and have developed a passion for chemistry through watching all of your videos. I would love an opportunity to shake the hands of everyone at the university and I respect and admire everything you do here on youtube and will continue learning as much as I can and look forward to your next videos

  11. This is crazy… You always hear about old kings and Isaac Newton in the context of them living so long ago, but those are their signatures right there in front of you.  It's like you had them time travel forward and sign this book… its weird.. and amazing!

  12. Its a truly priceless piece, in my opinion its has more value than any piece of art ever made considering how many different historically famous names have contributed to it. Its value will never decrease which is why I think people would be willing to pay in the billions for it, although it would also be a travesty such a book was hidden away in a private collection by some rich person with an ego.

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