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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)

The death of Sir Redmond Barry on 23 November 1880 at the age of 67 years brought to an end the active association of this eminent legal authority with the Society. He was the first president of the Victorian Institute for the Advancement of Science, and later assisted in the formation of the Philosophical Institute which, after a short period, became the Royal Society of Victoria. He was at all times an active council member, and exhibited a sincere regard for the welfare of the Society.

A further step forward, and one which ensured a site for all time for the Royal Society, was the application made to the government in 1882 for the grant of the land on which the building stood. Previously the land had been only permanently reserved for Royal Society purposes, and vested in a number of trustees. This application received the approval of the government, and enabled the Society to go ahead with permanent improvements to the property. The Crown grant of the site registered in Volume 1471 Folio 294133 was notified in the Government Gazette for 6 April 1883, and came into the possession of the Society shortly after, being then lodged for safe keeping with the Bank of Australasia.

In 1882, for the first time for many years, membership rose beyond 200, there being 163 members, 41 associate members, 6 corresponding members and 8 honorary members, a total of 218. This rapidly increasing membership was causing some embarrassment to the Society, so much so that, for the first time in its history, the Society was compelled to move away from its own hall for its annual conversazione which was held in the Melbourne Athenaeum on 14 September 1883. This was a really promising sign, as it attracted a number of members of the general public who, in the past, had been very loud in their criticism of the Society and its objects.

The resignation of Mr R. L. J. Ellery, Government Astronomer, as president in 1886 brought to a conclusion a term of nearly 20 years as president of the Society. To Mr Ellery must be given the credit of holding the Society together during a very difficult period when membership declined, financial assistance from the government was abolished, and the attitude of the public to the man of science was not at all tolerant. Through this troublous period, Ellery maintained his faith in the Society, gave encouragement and assistance to those younger members requiring guidance, and perhaps greatest of all showed to scientists in other parts of the world that, amidst all the excitement and turmoil of the foundation and growing up of a new colony, scientific investigation was not forgotten, but was proceeding at an increased tempo. Ellery was succeeded as president by Professor W. C. Kernot of the University of Melbourne, who, in his presidential address for 1885, detailed the essential requirements of a Royal Society, particularly with regard to fundamental matters. His address on that occasion is well worth reading as a yard-stick of scientific aims and achievements.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Philosophical Institute of Victoria; University of Melbourne; Victorian Institute for the Advancement of Science

People in Bright Sparcs - Barry, Redmond; Ellery, Robert Lewis John; Kernot, William Charles

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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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