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Corporate entry Tasmanian Natural History Society (1838 - 1849)

From
1838
To
1849
Alternative Names
  • Natural History Society of Van Diemen's Land (Also known as)
  • Tasmanian Society (Also known as)

Summary

The Tasmanian Natural History Society was established in 1838 by Sir John Franklin in partnership with local Tasmanian scientists who were already part of an informal scientific community built on correspondence both within and outside of Tasmanian. The Tasmanian Natural History Society was based in Hobart until 1843 when it moved its base of operations to Launceston. In 1841 the Tasmanian Natural History Society began publishing The Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science which became an international success. The society was active until 1848 when it merged with the Royal Society of Tasmania.

Details

The Tasmanian Natural History Society has a politically charged history, its membership policy was selective (based on scientific achievement) and led to calls of exclusivism that contributed in part to the establishment of a rival scientific association by Sir John Eardley Wilmot in 1843. In turn the Tasmanian Natural History Society countered these claims of exclusivism by arguing membership for other scientific bodies and organisations were too focused on class and social status which undermined the quality of the work of such organisations, their contributions to society, and unfairly excluded skilled working class individuals.

Key figures of the Tasmanian Natural History Society included James Clark Ross, Ronald Campbell Gunn, and Reverend John Lillie. By 1842 the Tasmanian Natural History Society had 72 members over half of whom were corresponding members from outside of Tasmania. The Tasmanian Natural History Society held strict criteria for its members and publications in the Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science, members engaged in numerous areas of science including but not limited to:

  • Meteorology;
  • Geology;
  • Agriculture;
  • Irrigation;
  • Botany;
  • Biology; and
  • Anthropology.

The establishment in 1843 of Sir John Eardley Wilmot's Royal Society caused the Tasmanian Natural History Society, with Ronald Campbell Gunn at its head, to relocate to Launceston where it continued to conduct and communicate highly esteemed scientific work.

Despite the change in location tensions between the two societies continued. Some former members of the Tasmanian Natural History Society, such as Reverend John Lillie, joined Wilmot's Royal Society in the hope of refocusing the new society on science outside of horticulture. Other members of the Tasmanian Natural History Society criticised the new Royal Society as being nothing more than a social club.

In 1847 Wilmot was replaced by Sir William Thomas Denison who worked with Joseph Milligan to reform the Royal Society and in 1849 the Tasmanian Natural History Society merged into the Royal Society.

Archival resources

Hobart Reading Room

  • Notice on meeting to farewell Sir John Franklin, with early history of the Society, 1843, SD_ILS:545773; Hobart Reading Room. Details
  • The Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science, Agriculture, Statistics, and c, 1842 - 1848, SD_ILS:538243; Hobart Reading Room. Details

Published resources

Journal Articles

  • Hoare, M. E., '"All things are queer and opposite": scientific societies in Tasmania in the 1840s', Isis, vol. 60, 1969, pp. 198-209. Details

Newspaper Articles

Theses

Online Resources

Elizabeth Daniels