The history of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) can be traced back to 1830.
The Geographical Society of London was founded in 1830 as an institution to promote the advancement of geographical science.
Like many learned societies at the time it started as a dining club in London where members held informal dinner debates on current scientific issues and ideas.
Under the patronage of King William IV, we later became known as The Royal Geographical Society and our Royal Charter was granted under Queen Victoria in 1859. In 1912 we bought, and in 1913 moved to, the Society's current home - Lowther Lodge in Kensington.
The Society’s purpose remains the same today as when first founded, namely the ‘advancement of geographical science’. However, the manner in which this is achieved has expanded greatly over the years, while continuing to include publishing, the support of field research and expeditions, lectures and conferences, and our historical Collections.
The history of the Society was closely allied for many of its early years with colonial exploration in Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the polar regions, and central Asia. It enshrines such famous names as Livingstone, Stanley, Scott, Shackleton, Hunt and Hillary.
The Society has also devoted much attention to education and was responsible for both the inclusion of geography in schools at the turn of the 20th century and for the first university positions in the discipline.
With the advent of a more systematic study of geography, a group of Fellows formed the Institute of British Geographers in 1933 as a sister body to the Society.
The RGS and the IBG co-existed for 60 years until, after several years of discussion, they merged in January 1995 to create the new Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers).
Today, with 16,000 members, the Society is the largest and most active scholarly geographical society.
A history of Lowther Lodge, by John Price Williams
In June 2018, Baroness Lynda Chalker was elected as President of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), the second woman to take on this role in the Society’s history.
Professor Joe Smith became Director in 2018.
Find out more about our dedicated staff, trustees, Council and committee members.
Our strategic plan provides a clear statement of where the Society is heading and our priorities in terms of actions.
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