Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.


Presidents of Royal Society live long lives

The records of the UK Royal Society indicate that its presidents are generally long-lived — possibly more so than their high-ranking contemporaries in British society.

We used Royal Society records to compare the lifespans of the society’s 59 deceased presidents with those of senior statesmen and Royal Society fellows from 1622 to 2018. Many of the presidents died at a mean age of 77 (s.d. 11), thereby outliving 49 deceased British prime ministers (74 ± 12 years) and 7,665 Royal Society fellows (72 ± 14 years).

Averaged over 50-year periods, Royal Society presidents are living as long now as they did 100–150 years ago: 82 ± 12 years, compared with 83±8 today, in contrast to the general population’s linear rise in life expectancy from about 1920 until 2010 (see

The society did not admit its first female fellows until 1945. Since then, 198 women have been elected, of whom 59 have died — at a mean age of 83 ± 12 years. These figures are comparable to those for the society’s presidents (all men) over the same period. Given that women tend to live longer than men, the similar average lifespan of these presidents could be noteworthy.

Bearing in mind the small sample sizes, these findings are speculative. The enduring correlation between longevity and socio-economic class might be a contributing factor.

Nature 599, 372 (2021)


Competing Interests

The authors declare no competing interests.


Nature Careers


Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing


Quick links