Science is a social activity that grows through free and open communications among its practitioners. The links among scientists—ones that that extend beyond particular institutions, nations, and disciplines—have been known as the invisiblecollege at least since 1645. The term describes the underlying structure of science, which operates as a communications system with formal and informal functions.

The first use of the term invisible college is often attributed to the Irish scientist Robert Boyle (sometimes called the “father of chemistry”). He used the term in a letter to his tutor to describe the interactions of a small group of like-minded natural philosophers, also known as the “virtuosi.” He pointed out that a group of natural philosophers had begun a series of communications about the natural world ...

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