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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 (continued)

It was also in 1873 that the Society recognized the necessity for making some provision for country members when compounding subscriptions for life membership. Consequently, on 12 August of that year, the following law was approved:

Members resident in Melbourne, or within 10 miles thereof, may compound for all annual subscriptions of the current and future years by paying £21, and members residing beyond this distance may compound in like manner by paying £10.10.0.

The falling off in membership of the Society, which was most apparent earlier, was still serious in 1874 when the total number was only 110. The Society suffered a serious loss also in that year with the death of Professor W. P. Wilson, who had been one of the earliest members of the Society and a vice-president for many years. His influence at council meetings had been of the highest, and his ability in discussion at general meetings considerably raised their standard.

Two further developments occurred in 1878 which were to have an important bearing on the future of the Society. Firstly, in order to attract young members it was decided that, as the entrance fee of two guineas together with two guineas subscription was prohibitive for this type of person, the constitution be amended to admit associate members at half price and without any entry fee, with privileges which would, with a few exceptions, be equal to those of members. It was hoped by this means to attract 'young men of the community whose tastes and education lead them towards our ranks, and whose enrolment is much to be desired'. Secondly, applications were received from one or two kindred societies of Melbourne for permanent accommodation within the building. Consideration was immediately given to continuing the floor of the library over the theatre, throwing the whole upper floor into one chamber, with the space beneath giving two more commodious rooms. The honorary architect of the Society was called upon to prepare estimates of the cost of this work.

We fail to realize in these so-called modern days of science, the tremendous impact that some of the essential parts of our normal lives nowadays had on the scientific life of the community when they were first introduced. It almost reads as part of a fairy story to find in the presidential report for 1878 the following statements:

In my last address, I referred at some length to the then recent invention of the telephone. Since then this wonderful little instrument has been greatly improved, and is now in actual use in Melbourne, not only as a scientific toy, but as a means of communication. We had no sooner become familiar with the telephone, than we were astounded by accounts of a still more wonderful apparatus, the phonograph. While a wonderful future is predicted for the phonograph, at present, if we except its power of giving a peculiar graphic representation of multiple and complex sounds, it cannot be said to be out of the category of scientific toys. I believe there are actually specimens of these instruments in the building tonight.

People in Bright Sparcs - 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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