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Corporate entry Royal Society of Tasmania (1843 - )

From
1843
Alternative Names
  • Royal Society of Van Diemen's Land for Horticulture, Botany and the Advancement of Science (Former name, 1844 - 1911)
  • Van Diemen's Land Horticultural and Botanical Society (Former name, 1843 - 1844)

Summary

Established in 1843 as the Botanical and Horticultural Society of Van Diemen's Land, The Royal Society of Tasmania is the earliest known official royal society in Australia or New Zealand; it is also the longest running. The Royal Society of Tasmania offers a forum to publish and share knowledge, encourages scientific endeavour and knowledge, engages the Tasmanian public in science and knowledge and provides objective advice relating to Tasmanian policy.

Details

The Royal Society of Tasmania has been through a number of name changes throughout its life. From 1843 until 1844 it was known as the Van Diemen's Land Horticultural and Botanical Society. When it gained Royal assent from Queen Victoria the society was renamed The Royal Society of Van Diemen's Land for Horticulture, Botany and the Advancement of Science, in 1911 the name was shortened to The Royal Society of Tasmania. During this period of time the colony then state of Van Diemen's Land transitioned its name to Tasmania. This transition is also reflected in some newspaper articles and other documentation that refers to the Royal Society of Tasmania for Horticulture, Botany and the Advancement of Science. For readability unless otherwise specified this entry will simply refer to it as the Royal Society of Tasmania.

While the first official Royal Society in Australia the mid 1800s saw a number of, often competing, Tasmanian (or Van Diemen's Land as it was then known) scientific groups and societies established. The origins of today's Royal Society of Tasmania can be traced back to 1843 and significantly this history involved challenges to traditional notions of over who should be included in scientific societies and the role such organisations should play within communities.

The Royal Society of Tasmania was, in part, established in response to the membership policy of the existing Tasmanian Natural History Society. Newspaper articles and other research suggests that many felt excluded from the Tasmanian Natural History Society which only admitted members who were deemed 'scientists'. On the other hand the Royal Society of Tasmania faced fierce criticism from the Tasmanian Natural History Society and the press who claimed the Royal Society of Tasmania was admitting members based on social status not 'scientific' credentials or interest and was limited to horticulture in its scope. The budget and use of resources by the Royal Society of Tasmania was also hotly contested at the time.

It complicated matters further that the patrons and key funders for each group, Governor John Franklin for the Tasmanian Natural History Society and Lieutenant Governor George Arthur for the Royal Society of Tasmania, before Queen Victoria stepped in in 1844, had a politically charged relationship. Despite the political tensions both groups continued to contribute to science in the fledgling colony of Van Diemen's Land.

Sir John Eardley -Wilmot who established the Royal Society of Tasmania in 1843 was replaced in 1847 by Lieutenant Governor Sir William Thomas Denison who worked to reform the Royal Society of Tasmania in response to its critics. This reformation led to a broadening of the focus of the Royal Society of Tasmania and the eventual friendly merger with the Tasmanian Natural History Society.

Since 1849 the Royal Society of Tasmania has published an annual edition of scholarly articles in its journal Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania focusing mostly on topics related to Tasmania and Antarctica. These include papers from a diverse range of disciplines from social science and history to geology and biology. Many of these publications are freely available online via the University Tasmania in line with the Royal Society of Tasmania's dedicated to engage with the Tasmanian community and membership policy. The Royal Society of Tasmania also holds regular lectures and creates podcasts.

Related People

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