Royal Society of Arts

The Royal Society of Arts, back of the building in London, England

The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) is a London-based, British organisation committed to finding practical solutions to social challenges.[1] Founded in 1754 by William Shipley as the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce, it was granted a Royal Charter in 1847,[2] and the right to use the term Royal in its name by King Edward VII in 1908.[3] The shorter version, The Royal Society of Arts and the related RSA acronym, are used more frequently than the full name.

Notable past fellows include Charles Dickens, Benjamin Franklin, Stephen Hawking, Karl Marx, Adam Smith, Nelson Mandela, David Attenborough, William Hogarth, John Diefenbaker, and Tim Berners-Lee. Today, the RSA has Fellows elected from 80 countries worldwide.

The RSA award three medals, the Albert Medal, the Benjamin Franklin Medal (following a decision by the Board in 2013, the Benjamin Franklin Medal is now overseen by the RSA US, although the final nomination is ratified by the UK Board) and the Bicentenary Medal. Medal winners include Nelson Mandela, Sir Frank Whittle, and Professor Stephen Hawking. The RSA members are innovative contributors to the human knowledge, as shown by the Oxford English Dictionary, which records the first use of the term "sustainability" in an environmental sense of the word in the RSA Journal in 1980.

Name and mission

Royal Society of Arts, front of the building

On the RSA building's frieze The Royal Society of Arts words (see photograph) are engraved, although its full name is Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. The short name and the related R(oyal) S(ociety) of A(rts) abbreviation is used more frequently than the full name.

The RSA's mission expressed in the founding charter was to "embolden enterprise, enlarge science, refine art, improve our manufacturers and extend our commerce", but also of the need to alleviate poverty and secure full employment. On its website, the RSA characterises itself as "an enlightenment organisation committed to finding innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges".

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