In a previous article1 I listed the recipients of the 20 gold medals commissioned by the Royal Society. This third and final article lists the 110 members who ordered one or more of the silver medal commemorating Captain Cook.
Most Royal Society members had probably never met Captain Cook and were purchasing a medal out of respect for the loss of another Fellow. However, amongst their number are several for whom Cook was more than just a name.
Sir Joseph BANKS, who made the largest purchase, ordered 23 medals to present to his friends.
Dr. Charles BURNEY is best known for his musical connections. He was also the father of James Burney who served under Cook twice. He was also father-in-law to Molesworth Phillips the lieutenant of marines on the Third Voyage.
Alexander DALRYMPLE, who had aspired to lead the Royal Society’s First Voyage.
Dr. Richard KAYE, the friend of Joseph Banks, who offered to look after Mrs Cook whilst her husband was away on the Third Voyage. Cook named an Alaskan Island after him.
Andrew KIPPIS, who several years later become Cook’s first biographer.
Sir Ashton LEVER, the collector of artefacts and natural history specimens from Cook’s voyages. He established the Leverian Museum in London in the 1780s.
Dr. Nevil MASKELYNE, the Astronomer Royal.
Dr. Paul Henry MATY, librarian at the British Museum and secretary of the Royal Society. He was also brother-in-law to Captain Charles Clerke.
William WALES, the astronomer on the Second Voyage ordered 18 medals. Wales was not a wealthy man who could afford to order so many medals for himself. It is assumed that he was purchasing a number of medals on behalf of his shipmates.
The number in brackets, adjacent to each member’s name, indicates how many silver medals they purchased from the Society.
The Royal Society’s record of who ordered a silver medal, differs from their record of who paid for a medal, which in turn differs from their list of who actually received a medal.
The above table has been compiled from my analysis of all of the available records. It may still contain some errors as the number of medals in the table totals 296, whereas Pingo’s invoices show only 291 silver medals were struck!
The situation is confused even more by the result of a subsequent stock-take at the Royal Society. This revealed that 22 silver medals were still held in stock in February 1789.
Unless Pingo had struck an additional and unrecorded quantity of medals, it appears that some of the members of the Royal Society failed to collect their medals.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 29, volume 32, number 2 (2009).
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