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Corporate entry Philosophical Society of Australasia (1821 - 1850)

New South Wales, Australia
19 January 1850
Association and Society or membership organisation
New South Wales


The Philosophical Society of Australasia was founded in 1821 and was the first scientific society in the colony of New South Wales. After a period of inactivity, the Society was re-established as the Australian Philosophical Society in 1850.


Extract from letter from Michael van Leeuwen to Gavan McCarthy 26 May 2004:

"The Philosophical Society was established in June 1821, with just seven members:
They were:

Judge Barron Field (1786-1846)
Dr Henry Grattan Douglas (1790-1865)
Frederick Goulburn (1788-1837)
John Oxley (1785-1828)
Edward Woolstonecraft (1783-1832)
Captain John Irvine
John Bowman

Governor Brisbane later accepted the position of patron of the Society.

A central initiative of the society was the establishment of a Museum of Natural History. Created in July 1821, it collected examples of the novel geological and animal specimens located in the Colony. Several donations were made by the Rev John Youl (1773-1827) of Port Dalrymple in Tasmania including 'a variety of fossils, petrifactions, etc.'* He also donated a case of minerals. Society members agreed that copies of all scientific papers given by society Members should be deposited in the Museum, which was located in the Colonial Secretary's office. Unfortunately, the infant Museum was to share in the fate of its parent organisation, which collapsed in disinterest and mutual acrimony little more than a year after its inception."

* Philosophical Society of Australasia Minute Book, (29 June 1821 - 14 August 1822), (ML), Minutes reproduced in Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales, LV 1921, p.xciv. The minutes record their actual donation at the next meeting in April 1822 ibid., xcviii.


 1821 - 1850 Philosophical Society of Australasia
       1850 - 1856 Australian Philosophical Society
             1856 - 1866 Philosophical Society of New South Wales
                   1866 - Royal Society of New South Wales

Published resources

Journal Articles

  • Cambage, R.H., 'Biographical Sketches of Some of the Members of the Philosophical Society of Australasia', Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales, lv (1921), xxxiii-xlii. Details
  • Maiden, J.H., 'A Contribution to a History of the Royal Society of New South Wales, with Information in Regard to Other New South Wales Societies', Journal and Proceedings of The Royal Society of New South Wales, lii (1918), 215-361. Details


See also

  • Elkin, A. P., 'Centenary oration: the challenge to science, 1866; the challenge of science, 1966, part 1', Journal and Proceedings of The Royal Society of New South Wales, 100 (3/4) (1966), 105-18. Details

Ailie Smith