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» Royal Society of Victoria

Royal Society of Victoria

In the first years of gold rush affluence, those who had come to Victoria set about reproducing the societies and institutions of their former homelands. A number of scientific societies sprang up in Melbourne and these were soon amalgamated to form what became the Royal Society of Victoria, modelled on its English namesake.

The prestige of science was such that the Society had little difficulty in securing a government grant of land and funding to erect a handsome building (which it still occupies today) in 1859, the year in which it also received permission from Queen Victoria to call itself a 'Royal' society.

What was the Royal Society?

The Royal Society of Victoria was a private association formed to encourage scientific research and the dissemination of new information. Some of its members were trained scientists, some self-educated enthusiasts, and many were simply educated professional men interested in the advancement of knowledge. Such a society seems inconceivable today, when the frontiers of science have passed far beyond the everyday view of most people, but in the middle of the 19th century, and in the midst of a still-new country like Australia, it was possible for amateurs to make important and useful discoveries in many branches of science.

The Society's last official act

History's judgement of the Society's Exploration Committee, and its mismanagement of the expedition, has been harsh. The expedition was a 'major event' which attracted many hangers-on, more interested in reflected glory than the proper management of a costly enterprise in which lives were at stake.

The Committee's last official act, however, was a far-sighted and public-spirited gesture. In 1874 it deposited the records of the expedition in the Melbourne Public Library.