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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

The first meeting of the Institute to be held in the new hall was the annual general meeting of 21 December 1859 when the President, Dr Ferdinand von Mueller, congratulated the members on the circumstances of their meeting together in their new building, and later delivered a special address to mark the occasion. His concluding words are worthy of repeating and becoming the motto of the Royal Society:

May the tempest of discord never re-echo from these walls! May every word resounding here be one expressive of friendly feelings, of philosophic thoughts, of elevated inspiration for all that is noble; and in aiming to fulfil the destiny for which we here are called, may our symbols be 'Concord and Progress'.

The pride with which the council looked upon their new building was soon evident when it was decided that it would be advantageous to have the hall open at evening. However, enthusiasm caused a little chaos, as, in the first month, it was agreed the building should remain open 4 p.m.–9 p.m. This was rapidly changed to 4 p.m.–6 p.m., and then almost immediately to 4 p.m.–10 p.m. Such apparent inconsistency was understandable in the pride of something new and of great importance in the scientific life of the State.

As an illustration of their faith in the new Institute, in 1859 the government set aside a considerable sum of money to be awarded as prizes for 'Prize Essays', open to the public of Victoria, with the Institute being requested to nominate seven suitable subjects for such essays. After considerable discussion, the following seven subjects were selected early in 1860, with the recommendation that a prize of £150 be given for the best entry in each section:

  1. On artesian wells in reference to their practicability in certain localities in Victoria.
  2. On the origin of gold in quartz veins and its association with other minerals.
  3. On the most improved means of extracting gold from its matrices.
  4. On the diseases of cultivated plants in Australia; their causes, treatment and prevention.
  5. On agriculture in Victoria especially in reference to the geological condition of soils, to the rotation of crops, and to the application of manures.
  6. On the prevailing diseases of domestic animals in Australia; their causes, treatment and prevention.
  7. On the collection and preservation of water in Victoria for motive power, irrigation and general water supply.

While these exact titles were not approved by the government, four titles were selected to cover similar interests, and judges were appointed by the council of the Royal Society in October 1860. Twenty-six entries were received and the awards were made early in 1861, a prize of £125 stg. and a gold medal to the value of £25 stg. being made in each of the four sections. The recommendation of the judges that the winners' essays be printed was approved by the government, the four essays appearing in one volume from the Government Printer in 1861. The originals of these essays are still in the possession of the Society.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Philosophical Institute of Victoria

People in Bright Sparcs - Mueller, Dr Ferdinand

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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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