Appended Credential Letters in Early Nineteenth-century England

face of a prisoner

In early nineteenth-century England, members of learned societies appended credential letters to their names, e.g. “F.R.S.” signifying “Fellow of the Royal Society.” Charles Babbage, writing in 1830 on the decline of science of England, satirically observed:

It is the custom to attach certain letters to the names of those who belong to different societies, and these marks of ownership are by many considered the only valuable part of their purchase on entry.

Babbage then included a table of the net-present cost of the entry fee plus annual fee for thirteen English learned societies. He then observed:

Thus, those who are ambitious of scientific distinction, may, according to their fancy, render their name a kind of comet, carrying with it a tail of upwards of forty letters, at the average cost of 10£ 9s. 9 1/4 d. per letter.^

William A. Guy, a physician who held the highest institutional positions of authority in late nineteenth-century British science, wrote his name with nine appended credential letters.

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