Just what is the Lunar Society and how is it related to self motivation and achieving that personal goal?  Although it’s true that in his 1937 book ‘Think and grow rich’, Napoleon Hill first enlightened the world to the mastermind alliance, it can be said that The Lunar Society were actually practising the concept a century earlier.

Hill introduced the idea of a group of like minded people becoming –  “A friendly alliance with one or more persons who will encourage one to follow through with both plan and purpose.” In reality in the latter part of the 18th century a group of gifted individuals from varied areas of expertise such as:

  • Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Discovery
  • Philanthropy
  • Invention

would meet once a month to swap ideas and carve out ways to further benefit mankind. Thus cementing the foundations of the mastermind group concept.


What was special about the founding members?


In the late 18th century it wasn’t uncommon to find a group of established business leaders and intellectuals gathering to debate current issues whilst enjoying a fine repast. What set the Birmingham Lunar Society apart from the rest however were the members.

Within the inner sanctum walls they amusingly referred to each other as the ‘Lunatiks’, but these revolutionaries were from that. This group of polymaths would go on to change the world forever.

Being incredibly selective, there were only ever 14 core members allowed at any one time. Each one of these members was chosen specifically for the level of expertise in their field and as such the greatest minds of the era represented sectors including; engineering, science and progressive thinking.


What did these famous people get out of being members?


Meeting once a month on a Monday closest to a full moon would seem thrilling enough, but for this particular group of men, the anticipation of bouncing ideas and embracing embryonic theories was intoxicating.

The debates between these great minds fused philosophy, arts, commerce and science and concepts that were tiny roots at these meetings eventually bloomed into canals, factories and world-class businesses.

As well as the motivation and fulfillment received from the group members, there were also occasions when the society would welcome extraordinary guests including Benjamin Franklin, Anna Seward and Thomas Jefferson.


Name some names.

Erasmus Darwin – recognised inventor and botanist, he published a theory of evolution 60 years before his grandson Charles. A true visionary, who foresaw  the use of steam powered propulsion.

Josiah Wedgwood – the father of English pottery, who brought affordable tableware to the working classes.

Joseph Priestley – the cleric and scientist, famous for discovering carbon dioxide, isolating oxygen and inventing fizzy drinks.

William Murdoch – who invented the gas light.

William Small – as well as being a prominent mathematician and philosopher he was also mentor to Thomas Jefferson.

James Watt –  developed the steam engines that provided power for modern factories that were in production up and down the country.

Matthew Boulton – who many considered to be the leading industrialist of his day. He revolutionised conditions for the workers, introducing modern-day industrial practice, the first workers’ insurance schemes and sick pay.

Matthew Boulton, blue plaque

corner of Steelhouse Lane and Priory Queensway, Birmingham

So although Napoleon Hill may be credited with documenting the ethos of masterminding, it’s encouraging to see that the dignitaries of the Lunar Society were benefiting from the same concept 150 years earlier.

Working together as a group isn’t for everyone, but if the Lunar Society’s prestigious members have taught us anything it’s that sharing goals, ideas and sometimes outlandish theories among like minded individuals can produce incredible results.

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Images by Tim Ellis, Elliot Brown