The four arches bordering the Great Hall are dedicated to four institutions of learning that preceded the US Academy of Sciences. The motto of the Royal Society is "take nobody's word for it." This spirit of determination to arrive at the truth through observation and consensus dates to the 1640s when a group of natural philosophers began meeting to promote knowledge of the natural world through the methods of the "new sciences." The Royal Society was officially founded in the 1660s at Gresham College. In 1663, King Charles II charged the Royal Society of London with the task of "improving natural knowledge." Unlike its French counterpart, this society of natural philosophers was largely composed of self-supporting gentlemen with the leisure and interest to engage in science. (It was said that the main contribution of the King was the royal name given to this society and later to the new Observatory at Greenwich). The society became the central institution for studying and advancing the new observational and experimental sciences, displacing the universities for over a century as an "invisible college." Its members and officers included every English natural philosopher of note, including Isaac Newton (who reigned as President), Edmond Halley, Robert Boyle, Robert Hooke, among many others. In such national societies, each with its own unique culture and style, science became central to the power and influence of the state or court.