About Us

The title of our Society may sound slightly misleading when you consider the more modern definition of the word ‘philosophy’, but it is in fact the oldest scientific society in Cambridge. Founded in 1819 by a group of Cambridge luminaries, Edward Clarke, John Stevens Henslow and Adam Sedgwick it became a Body Corporate by virtue of a Charter granted by King William IV in 1832.

Photo: The Lecture Room of the Cambridge Philosophical Society: London Illustrated News, June 28, 1845

A champion for independent scientific thinking

The Cambridge Philosophical Society is what’s termed a learned and professional Society and was created with the charitable aim of ‘of promoting scientific inquiry, and of facilitating the communication of facts connected with the advancement of Philosophy and Natural History’. The aims of the Society today are no different from its founders’ and, put simply, we are here to promote research in all branches of science and to encourage the communication of the results of scientific research.

Run by our Members with access to all

The Society is an independent self-supporting Charity, associated with the University of Cambridge and Governed by an elected Council of 21 Senior Academics, who are all members of the University of Cambridge. Currently we have 2,000 Society members, also known as Fellows, who are also University Graduates.

We run a regular series of lectures by well-respected speakers on a wide range of subjects from biology and astronomy to engineering and physics as well as many other events that are free and open to all. We also arrange a yearly a programme of events and visits just for Members. Income for the Society is generated by the publication of our two journals - Biological Reviews and Mathematical Proceedings as well as Membership fees.

The Society offers everyone:

  • An absorbing programme of lectures during the Lent and Michaelmas Terms – free to all and no booking needed
  • Subscription to (or single purchase of) our two well-respected journals – Biological Reviews and Mathematical Proceedings
  • Free access to our one-day international meeting and two-day anniversary meeting in 2019
  • Invitation to apply for our excellent three year Junior Research Fellowships - known as Henslow Fellowships

The Society offers its Fellows and Members:

  • Reduced (free to PhD’s) subscription to our two journals - Biological Reviews and Mathematical Proceedings
  • Annual summer visit – the summer visit for 2019 will be to the Cabinet War Rooms, London
  • Regular department visits – to places of interest within the University of Cambridge
  • Access to travel grants – Fellows can apply for funds to visit lectures, laboratories etc. that are relevant to their study, in the UK and abroad
  • Access to research studentships- Fellows can apply for funds to help continue their research in the areas of natural sciences or any branch of technology or mathematics


Discover our Journals & Books

From Darwin’s paper on evolution to the development of stem cell research, publications from the Society continue to shape the scientific landscape.


Join the Cambridge Philosophical Society

Become a Fellow of the Society and enjoy the benefits that membership brings. Membership costs £20 per year.

Join today

Upcoming Events

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Life in moving fluids - G I TAYLOR LECTURE

Professor Eric Lauga

  • 18:30 - 19:30 Babbage Lecture Theatre

Research in fluid mechanics has long been motivated by the desire to understand the world around us. Biology, in particular, is dominated by transport problems involving fluids, from the diffusion of nutrients and locomotion to flows around plants and the circulatory system of animals. The biological realm has therefore long been a source of inspiration for fluid mechanicians. 

In the 1950s, driven by the desire to understand the locomotion of spermatozoa, G I Taylor - the founder of modern fluid mechanics whose name is associated with this lecture - was the first to carry out a mathematical analysis of locomotion in a fluid. In the spirit of Taylor, I will highlight in this lecture examples where an analysis of fluid motion has lead to novel understanding of biological processes in the realm of cellular motility. 

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Should we automate?

Professor Duncan McFarlane

  • 18:30 - 19:30 Babbage Lecture Theatre

Originally a term used almost exclusively in the industrial domain, automation is now being applied in most aspects of life. Yet the rationale for automating and its implications is often not clearly understood. This talk will explore the origins of automation and examine what is encompassed by the term today. It will explore the rationale, benefits and downsides of automating - including implications for the future workforce - and will attempt to provide some signposting around whether we should automate, and if so when and where. A range of industrial automation developments from more than thirty years experience will be used to support this presentation.

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