Royal College of Science

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The Royal College of Science was a higher education institution located in South Kensington; it was a constituent college of Imperial College London from 1907 until it was wholly absorbed by Imperial in 2002. Alumni include H. G. Wells and Brian May and are distinguishable by the letters ARCS (Associate of the Royal College of Science) after their name. Organisations linked with the college include the Royal College of Science Union and the Royal College of Science Association.



The Royal College of Science has its earliest origins in the Royal College of Chemistry founded under the auspices of Prince Albert in 1845, located first in Hanover Square and then from 1848 in somewhat cheaper premises in Oxford Street. Cash-strapped from the start as a private institution, in 1853 it was merged in with the School of Mines, founded in 1851 in Jermyn Street, and placed under the newly-created British government Science and Art Department, although it continued to retain its own premises and substantially its own identity.

In 1872-3 the College of Chemistry moved into a new building at South Kensington (now the Henry Cole wing of the Victoria and Albert museum), along with the physics and biology classes previously taught at the School of Mines. The building, built on land acquired for "educational purposes" by the commissioners of the Great Exhibition of 1851, and next to another of Science and Art Department's projects the South Kensington Museum (later the V&A), had originally been intended to be a new school of naval architecture. But the scientists pressed the need for much better laboratory space, so the school of naval architecture instead went to Greenwich. One notable advocate for the new facilities was T.H. Huxley, who soon put them to good use, pioneering the greatly expanded use of laboratory work in biology teaching.

The Science and Art Department was keen to improve the quality of technical education, in particular the systematic training of school teachers, and so new classes in mathematics, astronomy, botany and agriculture were added, alongside the departments of mechanics, metallurgy and geology which soon also moved from Jermyn Street. (Mineralogy and mining remained behind at the Museum of Practical Geology until the 1890s). In recognition of its broadened scope the "Metropolitan School of Science applied to Mining and the Arts", as it was officially known, was re-established in 1881 as the "Normal School of Science and Royal School of Mines", under Huxley as dean, the name being based on that of the École Normale in Paris.

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