Meeting of the Lunar Society of Birmingham, late 18th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This meeting took place in the house of inventor James Watt (1736-1819). The Lunar Society began in 1765 and was made up of learned men of the time, great thinkers of the Industrial Revolotion who met to debate scientific questions and the application of science to manufacturing, mining, transport, education, and medicine. The society got its name from the practice of meeting when the moon was full so that its light would guide the members home through otherwise unlit streets. Other famous members of the society included chemists James Keir (1735-1820) and Joseph Priestley (1733-1804); physician, poet and grandfather of Charles Darwin, Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802); and ceramics pioneer Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795).