The British Journal for the History of Science

Research Article

‘An Influential Set of Chaps’: The X-Club and Royal Society Politics 1864–85

Ruth Bartona1

a1 School of Social Sciences, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia.

‘Our’ included not only Hooker and Huxley but their fellow-members of the X-Club. ‘Our time’ had been the 1870s and early 1880s. For a five-year period from November 1873 to November 1878 Hooker had been President of the Society, Huxley one of the Secretaries, and fellow X-Club member, William Spottiswoode, the Treasurer. Hooker was followed in the Presidency by Spottiswoode, and on Spottiswoode's death in 1883 Huxley was elected President. During this period other X-Club members—Edward Frankland, John Tyndall, George Busk, Sir John Lubbock, and Thomas Hirst—were ordinary members of the Council of the Society. As the Table below (p. 60) shows, there were at least three members of the X-Club on the Council of the Royal Society from November 1870 until November 1882. On eight occasions in this period there were four or more X-Club members on the Council. ‘Our time’ came to an end in 1885 when ill-health forced Huxley's retirement after only two years in the Presidency, and G. G. Stokes at last became President.