The Royal Microscopical Society (RMS) is a learned society for the promotion of microscopy. It was founded in 1839 as the Microscopical Society of London making it the oldest organisation of its kind in the world. In 1866, the society gained its royal charter and took its current name. Founded as a society of amateurs, its membership consists of individuals of all skill levels in numerous related fields from throughout the world. Every year since 1852, the society has published its own scientific journal, the Journal of Microscopy, which contains peer-reviewed papers and book reviews. The society is a registered charity that is dedicated to advancing science, developing careers and supporting wider understanding of science and microscopy through its Outreach activities.

Probably the society's greatest contribution is its standardised 3x1 inches microscope glass slides in 1840, which are still the most widely used size today and known as the "RMS standard".[5]

The Royal Microscopical Society is a member of the Foundation for Science and Technology, the Biosciences Federation, the European Microscopy Society and the International Federation of Societies for Microscopy.


Alfred William Bennett, botanist, publisher, early vice-president and editor of the Journal of Microscopy from 1897 until his death in 1902.[6]

On 3 September 1839 a meeting of 17 gentlemen including physicist Joseph Jackson Lister, photography pioneer Joseph Bancroft Reade, and the botanists Edwin John Quekett and Richard Kippist,[7][8] was held at Quekett's residence on Wellclose Square to take into consideration the propriety of forming a society for the promotion of microscopical investigation, and for the introduction and improvement of the microscope as a scientific instrument[1][9][10][11][12] At this gathering it was agreed that a society should be founded and a committee appointed. It was named the Microscopical Society of London and a constitution was drawn up.[8] On 20 December 1839, a public meeting was held at the Horticultural Society's rooms at 21 Regents Street in London. At the convention, Professor Richard Owen was elected President, along with Nathaniel Ward as Treasurer, and Farre as Secretary.[8] A Council was also appointed, consisting of J.S. Bowerbank, Thomas Edwards, Dr F. Farre, George Gwilt, George Jackson, Dr John Lindley, George Loddiges, the Rev. C. Pritchard, Edwin John Quekett, M.J. Rippingham, Richard Horsman Solly and Robert Warington. With them, forty-five men were enrolled as members.[8]

At its foundation, the Society acquired the best microscopes then obtainable from the three leading makers, Powell & Lealand, Ross, and Smith.[13] The first president of the society was palaeontologist Sir Richard Owen who is best known for coining the word "dinosaur" and for his role in creation London's Natural History Museum.[14] It was renamed the Royal Microscopical Society in 1866, when the Society received its Royal Charter. Its governing documents are its Charter and By-laws.

John Thomas Quekett (brother of co-founder Edwin John Quekett) served as the society's secretary from 1841 to 1860.[12]


RMS members come from a wide range of backgrounds within the biological and physical sciences.

After three years of continuous Ordinary Membership, members are invited to become a Fellow of the Society after a set number of criteria have been met, which allows for individuals to benefit from voting and election rights as well as the use of the post-nominal letters FRMS after their names.[15]

Honorary Fellows

Listed below are the Honorary Fellows of the Society of both past and present.[16][17]

Name Election date Notes
HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh[18] 1966 Consort of the British monarch
Johan Sebastiaan Ploem 1976
Sir Peter Hirsch 1977
Ewald Weibel 1978
Archie Howie 1978
James V P Long 1981
M Karnovsky 1982
H Hashimoto 1983
K C A Smith 1984
Calvin Quate 1984
Aaron Klug 1985
Sir Eric Ash 1987
Shinya Inoué 1988
Gerd Binnig 1988
P N T Unwin 1989 FRS
Sir John Meurig Thomas 1989 FLSW FRS HonFREng
Brian Ralph 1989
B Clive Cowen 1989
de:Hellmuth Sitte 1993
M Petran 1994
Tony Wilson 1998
Peter J Evennett 1998
G A D Briggs 2000
M J Whelan 2001
Sumio Iijima 2001
Paul Hirst 2005
Harald Rose 2008
Brad Amos 2010
John Hutchison 2013
Richard Paden 2014
Ernst Stelzer 2014
Michael Sheetz 2014
Helen Saibil 2014
Anne Ridley 2014
Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz 2014
Ondrej Krivanek 2014
Mildred Dresselhaus 2014
Flemming Besenbacher 2014
Barbara Bain 2014
Sir Colin Humphreys 2015 CBE FREng FRS
Leonore Herzenberg 2015
de:Max Haider 2015
Dirk van Dyck 2015
Xiaowei Zhuang 2015
Petra Schwille 2015
Michael Ormerod 2015
Peter K. Hepler 2015
David Ehrhardt 2015
Chris Hawes 2015
Eric Betzig 2016
Paul Midgley 2016
John Pethica 2016
Anthony Cullis 2016
Brian J. Ford 2017 FLS
Bridget Carragher 2017
Frances Ross 2017
John C. H. Spence 2017 ForMemRS, FInstP
de:Wolfgang Baumeister 2017
Stefan Hell 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (2014)
Lawrence Michael Brown 2017 FRS


Journal of Microscopy

The Journal of Microscopy provides an international and interdisciplinary forum for publication, discussion and education for scientists and technologists who use any form of microscopy or image analysis.[19] This includes technology and applications in physics, chemistry, material and biological sciences. The Journal publishes review articles, original research papers, short communications, and letters to the Editor, covering all aspects of microscopy.[20] It is published on behalf of the Society by Wiley-Blackwell.[21]

infocus Magazine

infocus Magazine is the Royal Microscopical Society’s Magazine for Members. It provides a common forum for scientists and technologists from all disciplines which use any form of microscope, including all branches of microscopy and microbeam analysis. infocus features articles on microscopy related topics, techniques and developments, reports on RMS events, book reviews, news and much more. Published four times a year, infocus is free to members of the RMS.

  • Royal Microscopical Society Microscopy Handbooks

Outreach Activities

The society is heavily involved with outreach activities, particularly those aimed at children, where the aim is to interest them in science as a whole as opposed to simply lab work.[22] In late 2015, the society was one of many "subject experts" consulted by awarding organisations as a part of a consultation by the Department for Education regarding reforms to the course content of the subject of Geology at GCE Advanced Level (A-level) in the national curriculum. Other advising parties included British Geological Survey, Natural History Museum and the Royal School of Mines.[23]

Microscope Activity Kit Scheme

One such method is through the use of the Microscope Activity Kit Scheme starting in March 2011, a free scheme sending fully equipped Kits of microscopes and ready-to-go activities to Primary Schools throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland for a term at a time. By December 2014, the Kits had gone from 2 to 50 and had been used by over 20,000 children in the UK.[24]

RMS Diploma

The RMS Diploma, launched in 2012 to replace the former RMS DipTech qualification, aims to help microscopists advance in their careers by improving and refining their skills to gain a distinguished qualification. The Diploma from the Royal Microscopical Society is attained via a flexible portfolio-based course of study that is designed by the candidate with the assistance of their line-manager, and with input from existing Fellows of the Society. This approach ensures that the study is both challenging and rewarding whilst fitting with, and complementing, the candidate's existing employment.[1]

Courses and conferences

Each year the RMS hosts a programme full of meetings, courses and conferences. These events provide opportunities for keeping abreast of the very latest developments and attract speakers of the highest quality and delegates active in all areas of science from forensics to flow cytometry, live cell imaging to SPM.


  1. ^ a b c Study Guide - Diploma of the Royal Microscopical Society. Royal Microscopical Society. 2010. p. 2. Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Financial history - 241990 - ROYAL MICROSCOPICAL SOCIETY". www.charitycommission.gov.uk. Retrieved 1 February 2017. 
  3. ^ "REPORT AND FINANCIAL STATEMENTS For the year ended 31 December 2015" (PDF). apps.charitycommission.gov.uk. 31 December 2015. p. 5 (7). Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  4. ^ "Council". www.rms.org.uk. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  5. ^ Connett, Jess (4 October 2017). "The art of the invisible". Bristol24-7. Retrieved 7 October 2017. 
  6. ^ Gilbert Baker, John (1902). R.G, Hebb, FRCP, ed. "Obituary - Biographical Memoir of A.W. Bennett". Journal of the Royal Microscopical Society: 158. Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  7. ^ "Notes". Nature. 25 (638): 275–277. 1882. doi:10.1038/025275a0. ISSN 0028-0836. 
  8. ^ a b c d Turner, Gerald L'E. (1989). God bless the microscope! : a history of the Royal Microscopical Society over 150 years (1st ed.). [Oxford]: Royal Microscopical Society. pp. 7–8. ISBN 9780950246345. Retrieved 24 February 2017. 
  9. ^ "RMS - History". www.rms.org.uk. Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  10. ^ Brewster, Sir David; Taylor, Richard; Phillips, Richard (1839). Brayley, Edward W, ed. "LXXVII - Proceedings of Learned Societies: Microscopial Society". The London and Edinburgh Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science. No. XV. Red Lion Court, Fleet Street, London: Richard & John E. Taylor. p. 549. Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  11. ^ "UCL Bloomsbury Project - Quekett Microscopical Club". www.ucl.ac.uk. Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  12. ^ a b "SurgiCat - Quekett, John Thomas (1840-1854) - MS0027". Royal College of Surgeons (SurgiCat). London. Retrieved 7 October 2017. 
  13. ^ Gerard L'E. Turner. "1839 - Royal Microscopical Society = History of Scholarly Societies". Scholarly Societies Project. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Archived from the original on 20 February 2017. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  14. ^ Wilson, Tony (January 2016). "Introduction" (PDF). Journal of Microscopy - 175th Anniversary Special Issue. No. 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell (Blackwell Publishing). 261 (1): 1. ISSN 1365-2818. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  15. ^ "RMS - Membership Benefits". www.rms.org.uk. Retrieved 28 January 2016. 
  16. ^ "Honourary Fellows". www.rms.org.uk. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  17. ^ "Honorary Fellows Past and Present". www.rms.org.uk. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  18. ^ "Charities and Patronages". British Royal Family (www.royal.uk). Retrieved 17 February 2018. 
  19. ^ "Journal of Microscopy - All Issues - Wiley Online Library". onlinelibrary.wiley.com. doi:10.1111/(issn)1365-2818/issues. Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  20. ^ "Journal of Microscopy". Royal Microscopical Society (in en_GB). St Clement's Street, Oxford. 12 May 2008. Archived from the original on 12 May 2008. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  21. ^ "Journal of Microscopy". www.rms.org.uk (in en_GB). St Clement's Street, Oxford. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  22. ^ Han, Aisha (1 October 2017). "Interaction with the unknown connects scientists and artists". The Tartan. Retrieved 7 October 2017. 
  23. ^ Education, Department for (3 November 2015). "Further additional GCSE and A level subject content consultation - Government consultation" (pdf). Department for Education (www.gov.uk). p. 17. Retrieved 10 November 2017. 
  24. ^ Microscope Activity Kits - Royal Microscopical Society website

External links