The Religious Society of the Friends of Truth, as the Quakers were first called at their foundation in the 1650s by George Fox, have contributed to society nationally and globally.
Many have been unsung, but among those who are of note, the name William Penn (1644-1718) comes to mind. He founded the state of Pennsylvania in the 1670s on the Quaker values of peace, truth, equality and simplicity, which were held for many years after his death.
Abraham Derby and his son were the first to smelt iron in the early 1700s, paving the way for its use in the Industrial Revolution.
By 1750s there were calls by Quakers to abolish slavery. A committee of six sent a petition to Parliament, which was ignored. A later committee, including two Anglicans, succeeded in starting the process of abolition though it was many years before it became law.
In the early 19th century, a Quaker called Elizabeth Fry began her work in reforming the prison service, especially in regards to the treatment of women. In remembrance of her work she was pictured, until recently, on the back of the £5 note.
The chocolate industry has been dominated by the names of Quakers: Cadbury, Rowntree and Fry and, let us not forget, our own Huntley and Palmer’s biscuits.
During the First World War, a meteorologist named Fry Richardson, pioneered the development of weather forecasting, during quieter moments, when he was serving with the Quakers’ ambulance service on the Western Front.
In the 1920s, Arthur Eddington, the eminent astrophysicist, followed Einstein’s development of his Theory of Relativity.
Quakers continue to work in promoting Peace, and Truth in Environmental and Social Justice. Oxfam and Amnesty are well-known.
Looking at a different angle, Mr Lloyd and Mr Barclay, originally Quakers, are on every high street.
We have been entertained by many Friends over the years, who have also given their names to good causes. Thank you Dame Judi Dench, Joan Baez, Emily Deschel, David Lean and many more.
Martyn Towle from Wokingham Quakers on behalf of Churches Together in Wokingham