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Royal Society of Victoria - Approaching Centenary


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Royal Society of Victoria - Approaching Centenary (continued)

In 1886 an Antarctic Committee of the Society was set up to determine how best it could originate Antarctic exploration and research, and the Government of Victoria, at the behest of the Society, offered to contribute, jointly with the British Government, towards a properly equipped expedition to Antarctica. At that time, the British Government declined to co-operate, but the spark had been kindled, and these moves, reinforced by others made by kindred organizations in Australia and in England, led eventually to the successful voyage of the Discovery under Scott.

On 3 December 1956 the Society conducted a Symposium on 'Australia's Part in the International Geophysical Year in Antarctica'. The Symposium was opened by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, who was followed by the President of the Australian Academy of Science, Professor M. Oliphant. Professor Sir Douglas Mawson spoke on 'Australia's Links with Antarctica' and Dr. D. F. Martyn on 'Australia and the International Geophysical Year'. Finally the Director of the Antarctic Division of the Department of External Affairs, Mr. P. G. Law, outlined the immediate programme of his Division. The contributions will be published in the next issue of the Proceedings, and will also be issued separately.

Through activities of this kind, by the consistent publication of scientific papers, and by the expansion and maintenance of its library which now houses well over 20,000 volumes, the Royal Society of Victoria, like its sister societies in other States, has played a very important part in the development of an appreciation of science and technology in Australia. The people of this country have consistently shown a strong belief in the benefits that science can give to the material prosperity and intellectual tone of the community. Perhaps the recognition of this waned for a time after the initial period of expansion in the second half of the last century, a period when the Royal Societies spoke for all the sciences. But since World War I, and perhaps even more in the last decade, science and technology have again gripped the imagination of the community.

It is recognized, however, that with the growth of specialist societies for nearly all the scientific disciplines, the place of the Royal Societies has changed. Each in its own way must meet the challenge, but there can be no doubt that their role should be even greater now than in the immediate past, since, among State groups, they alone can aim at the broad target of general scientific endeavour. The Australian Academy of Science has already indicated its belief in the potential value of the State 'Royals'. Their history reveals great achievements. Their future must be planned for expansion rather than contraction of action, at the highest possible level, to advance the practice, application and appreciation of scientific pursuits in Australia. If at the same time any links with the arts and humanities can be established, such as existed in the formative stages of the Societies, the distressing antagonism that cannot be overlooked today between protagonists of science and of the humanities may, if goodwill replaces mutual distrust, be neutralized. This is a personal hope of the author.

Notes prepared by P. Crosbie Morrison, former President of the Society, were kindly made available and used in the preparation of this article.

People in Bright Sparcs - Hills, Edwin Sherbon; Law, Phillip Garth; Martyn, David Forbes; Mawson, Douglas; Morrison, Philip Crosbie; Oliphant, Marcus Laurence Elwin

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Hills, Edward Sherbon 1957 'Royal Society of Victoria - Approaching Centenary', The Australian Journal of Science, vol.19, no.4, February 1957, pp. 144-45.

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