RSC - Advancing the Chemical Sciences


The Coat of Arms

RSC Coat of Arms

Armorial bearings have been granted to the Society under Letters Patent issued by the College of Arms. 

In these new arms the shield is derived from the arms of the Royal Institute of Chemistry, with the addition of a narrow gold border to make the distinction required by the rules of heraldry. The sun, as the generator of energy and elements, is the dominant feature and is surrounded by the planetary symbols in the Babylonian correlation. Together, they also represent the seven metals known to early alchemists. The symbols are superimposed on a hexagon, denoting the benzene ring and thus the evolution of modern chemistry. On the background of the shield the contrasting colours allude to the 'doctrine of opposites' - a proposition developed in the ancient world that simply distinguished between two characteristics (e.g., hot or cold, wet or dry) and can be regarded as the first approach to scientific thinking of which there is written evidence. 

The phoenix arising invigorated from the flames of its own pyre, depicted on the crest, seemed an appropriate device for the Royal Society of Chemistry, which is a re-embodiment of the four societies that it has succeeded. Moreover, the avian phoenix, with water dropping from its outstretched wings, together with the flames and chaplet of oak-leaves at the base, recall the Greek concept of the four elements - air, water, fire and earth. The lion and the unicorn, which act as supporters, are akin to those in the Royal arms and are therefore well suited to a 'Royal' society of which Her Majesty the Queen is the Patron. The lion's collar carries a symbol based on the Chemical Society's monogram, while the unicorn bears a stylised graph that formed part of the arms originally granted to the Society for Analytical Chemistry and now held by the Analytical Division. 

So far as is known, the Latin motto Pro scientia et humanitate has no classical associations. It was chosen because it seemed to epitomise the main functions of a learned society and a representative body in the scientific field. An agreeable and almost literal translation is For the sake of knowledge and for the benefit of mankind

The Letters Patent are perhaps somewhat extravagant in decreeing that the arms shall be 'borne and used for ever hereafter' but it is hoped that they will serve as the emblem of the Society for many years to come. 

D.A. Arnold in Chemistry in Britain, 1981, p.551