Meeting of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society, Falmouth, 1859.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
The annual meeting of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society in Falmouth, Cornwall on 28 September 1859. The society, founded in 1833, was the first polytechnic society in Britain. Its stated purpose was 'to encourage the useful arts and to elicit the ingenuity and inventive powers of the young'. The Fox family, prominent Quakers, had realised that many local people employed at their foundry had suggestions about improving the working of the foundry. The desire to implement these ideas was the driving force behind the founding of the society, which played a prominent role in the industrial development of Cornwall, and of photography, throughout the 19th century. King William IV became patron in 1835 and the society added 'Royal' to its name.