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Science and the making of VictoriaRoyal Society of Victoria
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Royal Society of Victoria 1854-1959


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Royal Society of Victoria (continued)

As a further example of the varied interests of the Society at this time, it is worth recording that, in 1890, a committee of experts was appointed to enquire into the subject of cremation. The prime mover behind this action was Mr H. K. Rusden, a life member, who for many years had been interested in the subject, and who at the Melbourne Meeting of the Australasian Association had read a paper, 'Cremation, a sanitary necessity'. The committee so formed consisted of Professors Masson and Kernot, of the Melbourne University, and Mr H. K. Rusden.

Another project which the Society was considering was the necessity for a gravity survey of Australia. A strong committee recommended that such a survey was not only highly desirable, but readily possible, as the Royal Society of London had offered on loan the pendulum apparatus employed for a similar purpose in the great trigonometrical survey of India. Co-operation for this project was immediately forthcoming from a number of States, and approval was forthcoming, finance permitting, for this work to commence.

The subject of Antarctic exploration entered a new phase in this year when a definite offer was received from Baron Nordenskjold and Baron Oscar Dickson of Sweden to send a Swedish ship to the Antarctic, provided that Australia contributed £5,000 to the cost. The expedition was not to be a whaling and scientific one, which all experts condemned seeing that the two objects would be in conflict, but would be a purely scientific expedition. This magnificent offer to defray half the cost of such an expedition was immediately accepted by the Antarctic committee, and public subscriptions were called to raise sufficient funds to allow the expedition to be despatched during the summer of 1891. The Royal Society headed the subscription list by voting £100 towards the funds.

Early in July, at a public meeting held in the Athenaeum to appeal for funds, it was stated that the original estimate of £10,000 had grown to £15,000, but that it was hoped to raise £22,000 to place the success of the venture beyond doubt. An individual donation of £1,000 at that meeting gave the organizers great encouragement. It was also reported that the Swedish explorer. Baron Nordenskjold, had commenced active preparations to lead the expedition in some 14 or 15 months' time. Considerable discussion ensued as to which Australian scientists would accompany the expedition, but no final decision was made pending further information.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - University of Melbourne

People in Bright Sparcs - Kernot, William Charles; Masson, David Orme; Rusden, Henry Keylock

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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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