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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)

The latter part of 1857 saw the commencement of what was to be one of the greatest undertakings of the Society and one of the epic stories of Australian exploration. This was a proposal put forward at the October meeting that consideration be given to 'The practicability of fitting out in Victoria a Geographical Expedition, for the purpose of carrying out the great idea of the lamented Leichhardt, of exploring the vast interior of Australia from east to west, and for the purpose, if possible, of gathering some tidings of the fate of Leichhardt and his party'. It was estimated that a sum of £6,000 would be necessary to organize and maintain a suitable exploring party for a period of two years. A large committee of 32 members, including a number of members of both the Legislative Assembly and Council, was appointed to draw up proposals to accomplish this project.

This committee, after four meetings and after taking evidence from explorers in other States, presented their detailed report at a special meeting late in December, with a recommendation that, as soon as financial support was available, the project get under way.

It had been obvious for some time that, to meet the growing needs of the Institute, now with over 230 members, a special building for the Institute was necessary. The facilities provided at the Museum of Natural History, while satisfactory and most desirable in the early life of the Institute, had become hopelessly inadequate for the fast-growing and energetic organization. Consequently, on 27 October 1857, an approach was made to the President of the Board of Land and Works for a grant of land on which to erect a building for the Institute to hold its meetings and to preserve its property. With this request was submitted a list of four allotments in order of priority as being suitable for the purpose. After an interval of nearly three months, the Institute was informed that the Governor in Council had been pleased to approve of a reserve of 1 rood 6 perches being made available for the purpose at the junction of Victoria Street with LaTrobe Street. It is interesting to note that this site had the lowest priority of the four sites suggested by the Institute. However, after consultation with the architects it was found that this area was too small on which to erect an adequate building, and further representations were made to the government for this area to be increased. Eventually, in August 1858, the whole triangular piece of land consisting of 2 roods 6 perches lying between Victoria Street, LaTrobe Street and Rathdown Street was reserved for the Institute. The land was immediately fenced, and a competition held for the most suitable plan embracing a large hall capable of seating 300 persons, museum, library, laboratory, and caretaker's quarters.

A number of detailed plans and drawings was received from architects and builders throughout Melbourne and some of the nearer suburbs, and one, an architect's plan, was finally chosen after months of discussion. Estimates called for the construction of such buildings resulted in prices ranging between £4,300 and £5,800 for the bare minimum of a building, with at least an additional £1,500 for plastering and finishing the inside and outside of the building and finishing the joinery work.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Philosophical Institute of Victoria

People in Bright Sparcs - Leichhardt, Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig

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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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