The Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow (not the same as Philosophical Society, 1795-1796?)


This group began as the Glasgow Philosophical Society and later became the Philosophical Society of Glasgow. A Royal Charter was granted in 1901. The Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow’s website offers an excellent summary of the long history of this group:

‘A short history of the Society
On 9th Nov. 1802, in response to an invitation, twenty-two citizens met in the Prince of Wales Tavern, Glasgow where they set up a committee to outline the principles for a Society ‘for the improvement of the Arts and Sciences’ in Glasgow. An important consideration was the establishment of a select library of scientific books. A week later a meeting was held in the Assembly Rooms at which sixty persons subscribed to the setting up of the Glasgow Philosophical Society. On 8th Dec the Regulations were approved and a Council was elected. The first President was a Professor of Astronomy and the Vice-President was an ironfounder, thus representing the joint interests of science and industry. From the beginning it was intended that meetings would be held weekly in the winter and fortnightly in the summer and that the members would present papers on experiments and exhibit models or artefacts.

[…] The Society has had many eminent members and became a Royal Society in 1901 when Lord Blythswood was President.’

(‘History’, ‘A Short History of the Society’, The Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow <> [accessed 31 March 2018])

For a more complete history, see No Mean Society, 1802-2002: 200 years of the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow (2003).

Date of Existence

29 November 1802-present

Source of Information

1. Papers of the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow, 1802-2000 (UGSC, MS Gen 1756) (From the University of Glasgow Special Collections online catalogue: ‘Content: Records created by the Society, including Minutes, publications and photographs, illustrating the Society’s founding, growth and activities.’)

2. ‘Glasgow Literary & Scientific Institutions’, The Western Luminary, or Glasgow Literary & Scientific Gazette, Vol. I, No. 3, 17 January 1824, p. 19 (UGSC, Sp Coll Mu60-f.31, Sp Coll Bh12-e.12);

3. ‘Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow’, ‘Educational and Scientific Institutions’, Glasgow Post-Office Annual Directory for 1854-1855… (Glasgow: William Mackenzie, 1854), p. 132;

4. (See also various Glasgow Post Office directories from 1855 onwards);

5. Terry, Charles Sanford, A Catalogue of the Publications of Scottish Historical and Kindred Clubs and Societies…1780-1908 (Glasgow: James MacLehose and Sons, 1909) (UGSC, History Bibliog DV300 1909-T 1780-1908);

6. No Mean Society, 1802-2002: 200 years of the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow (Glasgow:  Royal Philosopical Society of Glasgow, 2003) (available as a downloadable PDF on The Royal Philosophical Society website on its ‘History’ page:

7. The Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow Homepage:


Mitchell Library (Glasgow Post Office directories)

National Library of Scotland (Glasgow Post Office directories)

University of Glasgow Special Collections (UGSC)

Reference Number

(See Source of Information)

Additional Notes

The full title for The Western Luminary is as follows: The western luminary, or, Glasgow literary and scientific gazette, embracing, Reviews of all new and interesting publications — Discussions of all important matters connected with the West of Scotland — Biographical memoirs of such living and dead individuals as possess peculiar claims on our sympathy or regard — Original essays upon men and manners, institutions and priciples — Poetry, written and selected for the work — Anecdotes and extracts — Arts and science — Truth and fiction, conducted by the Writers of the Free Press, and other literary gentlemen of Glasgow and the West of Scotland.

From the Mitchell Library online catalogue on this magazine:

‘Notes: Additional information: 1 v (208p.); 28cm[,] Bound with: Select views of Glasgow and its environs / engraved by Joseph Swan … Glasgow : Joseph Swan, 1828, in a volume with spine title The western luminary, Andrew Bain Memorial, Lacks nos. 14-16, no.18’ [accessed 31 January 2018].

The Glasgow Post Office directories are available at the Mitchell Library and the National Library of Scotland. Digitised copies are available through the NLS website: