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Science and the making of VictoriaRoyal Society of Victoria
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Royal Society of Victoria 1854-1959


Victorian Institute for the Advancement of Science

Philosophical Society of Victoria

Philosophical Institute of Victoria

Royal Society of Victoria



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Royal Society of Victoria (continued)

For these qualifications, he was to be paid the princely salary of 10 shillings per month, in addition to free occupancy of the lodge.

The printing of the Transactions received a further set-back in 1868 when the government subsidy to the Society was withdrawn. This position was not corrected until 1872 when sufficient funds became available through members' subscriptions to allow printing to be resumed, and liberal treatment by the government in 1873 assured continuity of such printing.

Additional financial worries followed in 1870 as, at that time, it was found that the treasurer had not been paying to the credit of the Society moneys which he had been receiving for subscriptions, and that cheques had been drawn and not accounted for. Following exhaustive enquiries among members, a conside deficiency in funds was found, and the treasurer, in the absence of any explanation whatever, expelled from the Society.

The most noteworthy event in the life of the Society during 1871 was the organization of an expedition to Cape York for observing the total eclipse of the sun on 12 December 1871. With liberal aid from the governments of Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, a well-equipped party of eight observers and thirteen passengers sailed from Melbourne, and was joined by a similar party of six observers and three passengers at Sydney. Arriving at their destination on 6 December, the scientific equipment was set up on a sandbank, and completed in time to allow for a day and a half of rehearsals. The weather, which had been perfect for observations for days, broke the night before the eclipse with thunderstorms and rain. With the exception of one moment when a break appeared in the heavy cloud to show the last thin crescent just before totality, nothing else was seen. This momentary break was all the Australian eclipse expedition saw of the total eclipse of 12 December 1871. Although disappointed by the lack of the hoped-for results, the expedition did not return empty-handed—botanical and natural history collections generally being made, together with a series of meteorological observations.

A major change of policy became evident in 1873 when an attempt was made to popularize the affairs of the Society. It had been evident for some years that the interest of the public in the Society had been waning and that, apart from the annual conversazione, very few members of the general public knew anything of the Society. It was realized that 'the real hard business of the Society, many of the questions to which the members should devote their energies, are of a kind productive of papers which, however valuable in a purely scientific sense, are the opposite of what is called popular. We gain something by popularizing our meetings.' It was therefore decided that, in the following year, a limit would be put on ordinary meetings, and a series of meetings of a more social character inaugurated. Which category the paper presented by James E. Neild, M.D., at the meeting immediately after this decision was made, entitled 'On the advantage of burning the dead', and strongly supporting the principle of cremation, came under was never disclosed.

People in Bright Sparcs - Neild, James Edward

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Pescott, R. T. M. 1961 'The Royal Society of Victoria from then, 1854 to now, 1959', Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, vol. 73, no. 7, pp. 1-40.

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