The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) was founded during the golden years of the Scottish Enlightenment, receiving its Royal Charter 1783. It played an extremely important role in disseminating and encouraging papers on the ideas and theories emanating from the Enlightenment.
It had its beginnings in the Philosophical Society founded in c.1739 by Colin MacLaurin, and of which James Hutton became a member as soon as he returned to Edinburgh from farming in Berwickshire (1768). Hutton was a very active member of the RSE. With Black, Smith and Playfair he was among the members of its first Council and jointly with Black, was President of the Society’s Physical Class. He was also on the publications sub-committee. He frequently chaired meetings and was often the speaker on an extraordinary wide range of subjects including geology, medicine, agriculture, chemistry, meterology, philosophy, and the Chinese language.