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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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Philosophical Society of Victoria (continued)

Their report, when presented to the following meeting, formulated a policy of exploration which placed the Society, and later the Royal Society of Victoria, in the pioneering field of this important stage of development of a new country. It is well to record, in some detail, the resolutions of this sub-committee which were unanimously adopted by the general meeting of the Society held on 18 September 1854, as they formed the basis for the organization of later exploration parties, including the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition. The resolutions were as follows:

  1. That the Society shall organize exploring expeditions, which shall be despatched from time to time, for the purpose of discovering new auriferous fields, coal, etc., and to collect additional information respecting the various mineral and vegetable resources of Victoria.
  2. That each exploring party shall be furnished with special instructions by the Society.
  3. That the reports of such expeditions shall form part of the Transactions of the Society, and be published for general information.
  4. That in addition to the individual exertions of the members, the whole proceeds of the first Transactions of the Society shall be appropriated to this purpose, and the half of each subsequent publication.
  5. That any further funds which may be required to carry out this object shall be raised by public subscription.
  6. That the President be requested to communicate with His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, as patron of the Society, requesting him to give his assent to the enterprise.

To assist with the proposed exploration parties, a public appeal was opened by the Society in September 1854, with contributions to be forwarded to either the Museum of Natural History or the offices of the Victorian Vineyard and Fruit Garden Company. It is not clear what connection this latter organization had with either the Philosophical Society or the proposed exploration party. The immediate response to this was not encouraging.

The November 1854 monthly meeting must always stand out in the history of the Society for two decisions that were made. The council was instructed to carry out—(a) the preparation of petitions to His Excellency the Lt-Governor and to the Honourable the Legislative Council to assist in the carrying out of exploration, and (b) the preparation of the form of application for the incorporation of the Society by a Royal Charter.

The first of these decisions was apparently implemented at once as, in December 1854, a copy of the prepared memorial was despatched from the Museum of Natural History by the secretary of the Society to the Private Secretary of the Lt-Governor. The reaction to this memorial, however, was unfavourable as not only did the Lt-Governor refuse to receive the deputation from the Society but 'he regrets that the insufficiency of the public funds to meet the public requirements renders it imperative upon him to stay every possible expenses, but that with regard to gold, the numerous prospecting parties (which are searching the length and breadth of the land), in the Lieutenant-Governor's opinion, fully encompass the end sought by the Society; whilst with regard to coal, it is reported that the fields at Western Port are sufficient to last a generation'.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Philosophical Institute of Victoria; Philosophical Society of Victoria

People in Bright Sparcs - Burke, Robert O'Hara; Wills, William John

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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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