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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

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Royal Society of Victoria



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Royal Society of Victoria (continued)

The death of Sir Frederick McCoy in 1899 removed from the Society another of the foundation members of the earlier societies and a former president. McCoy, the first Professor of Natural Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Director of the National Museum and Government Palaeontologist, had contributed greatly to the affairs of the Society, and although he did not always see eye to eye with the council on matters of policy, yet was respected because of his wealth of knowledge and clear thinking.

With McCoy's death, Professor Spencer became Director of the National Museum and, because of the complete re-organization that became necessary following the decision to transfer the Museum from the University to the Public Library block, he was obliged to resign as honorary secretary of the Society—a position he had held with great distinction for ten years. However, he did not entirely sever his connection with the Society as, in a year or so following this time, he was elected president, and later a trustee.

The decision in 1901 that the International Catalogue of Scientific Literature of the Royal Society of London should be extended to Australia resulted in the Royal Society being requested to form the Regional Bureau for Victoria, with headquarters at the Society's hall. Professor J. W. Gregory agreed to become head of this bureau. However, in spite of the fact that the government expressed its opinion that it was not prepared to assist in the publication of this work, and had referred the matter to the Public Library, the Society decided to continue the work of the Regional Bureau at its own expense. Professor Gregory carried out these duties until 1904 when, because of his leaving Australia, it became necessary to appoint a new cataloguer. Professor W. A. Osborne and Mr T. S. Hall (the Society's secretary) were appointed to continue this valuable work, but owing to pressure of other duties were quickly forced to relinquish it. After the Science Faculty of the University had been offered this project, but were unable to carry it out, it was referred back to the Bureau in London which, following communications with the Agent-General there, suggested to the Premier of Victoria that the Public Library should undertake the work. This being approved, in 1911 the government offered an annual grant of £50 for cataloguing purposes, which arrangement continued until 1915 when the grant was abandoned. The work, however, was carried on by the staff of the Public Library under great difficulties, particularly during the war years, under the direction of Mr E. R. Pitt, who was also a member of the Society. How well he succeeded in this task is now known to every Australian librarian. However, in 1921, the Royal Society of London, through lack of finance, was forced to abandon the project.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - University of Melbourne

People in Bright Sparcs - Gregory, John Walter; Hall, Thomas Sergeant; McCoy, Frederick; Osborne, William Alexander; Spencer, Walter Baldwin

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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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