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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 Institute of Victoria (continued)

This address so nettled the council of the Institute that a further petition was drawn up and directed to the Right Worshipful the Mayor of Melbourne calling for a public meeting of protest. This meeting, held on 26 July 1856 at the Mechanics Institution, decided to again interview the 'officer administering the government' to lodge a further protest against the proposal.

Again, McCoy was a step ahead of his antagonists, as, on the night that the special committee was organizing a further public meeting, he hastily removed the whole of the collections of the museum from the Assay Building and delivered them to the University.

Obviously this latter bombshell from McCoy so disheartened the council that no further reference to the transfer was made, except that from time to time they took steps to ensure that the museum did not become completely absorbed into the University.

The suggestion at the April 1856 monthly meeting that a commission be appointed to consider the utility and practicability of introducing the camel and other useful animals into Victoria was to have an important bearing at a later stage on another project the Royal Society sponsored—the Burke and Wills expedition.

A special general meeting on 19 June of the same year, called to discuss a number of contentious subjects, brought heated argument on the subject of life membership. The principle of life membership was never in question, but the amount that should be paid was the subject of repeated motions and amendments. Finally a figure of £20 was decided upon, whereon a number became life members at once. However, the matter was not finalized at that point, as, at the next meeting, the following motion by the treasurer was approved—'That in order to liquidate the existing debt of the Institute the fee for Life Membership be reduced to £10, until the sum of one hundred and twenty pounds shall have been raised'. What happened to those who had paid their life membership fees the previous month is not recorded.

Another project with which the Philosophical Institute became interested at this stage of its life owed its beginning to a paper delivered by Professor Wilson at the November 1856 monthly meeting 'On the steps taken in England to provide a telescope for observing the nebulae of the Southern Hemisphere'. Considerable discussion followed this paper as to the necessity for astronomical work in Victoria with the result that a committee of five was empowered 'to take such steps as may seem expedient, to induce the government to place upon the estimates a sufficient sum to establish an Astronomical Observatory in Victoria'. The steps taken by this committee were apparently effective as the government immediately expressed itself most favourably respecting the establishment of such an observatory, and asked for detailed estimates of cost. This was provided to the extent of an initial sum of £7,000 for equipment and buildings, with an annual sum of £1,300 for staffing. The original suggestion called for a site of land on the west portion of Royal Park, clear of trees, on the brow of the hill overlooking Flemington.

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

People in Bright Sparcs - Burke, Robert O'Hara; McCoy, Frederick; Wills, William John ; Wilson, William Parkinson

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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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