Published Resources Details Journal Article

Johns, A. W.
An account of the Society for the Improvement of Naval Architecture
Transactions of the Institution of Naval Architects
vol. 52, 38435, pp. 28-40

Accession No.1253


"The Society for the Improvement of Naval Architecture owes its formation to a Cornhill bookseller named Sewell who was also one of the proprietors of the European Magazine. Sewell had been wanting for a long time to "form a society which would do for naval architecture what the Society of Arts, founded in 1753, proposed to do for the arts generally." His chance came when Captain Sir John Warren R.N., asked his late tutor, the Reverend Thomas Martyn, to call at Sewell's shop. Sewell in conversation broached his great idea and Martyn was so impressed that he at once undertook to draw up a definite proposal. Sewell, Warren and "a Mr. Rogers, a watchmaker in the City, an intimate friend of Mr. Sewell's", discussed this, and a meeting was called on the 14th of April 1791, at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand, at which it was unanimously decided to institute a "Society for the Improvement of Naval Architecture." Martyn commented "Thus has a great society for naval improvements been formed by a bookseller, a watchmaker and a parson, with the assistance of one who is rather more a fashionable man than a naval officer." Unfortunately, the society did not gain the support of the naval architects in the service of the State as they, "generally kept aloof …probably considering that its formation was a direct slight to their own abilities and productions." The Society's most notable achievement was the inauguration of the resistance experiments carried out by Colonel Beaufoy in the Greenland Dock. These experiments were started in 1793 and carried on for some years. The report on these experiments "was the last official act of the Society, which, not without a certain amount of regret, dissolved in the following year, 1799." Johns considered that the chief reason for the failure of the Society was the lack of support from those engaged in warship design."