The Royal Society of Tasmania
The mission of the Royal Society of Tasmania is “The advancement of knowledge” and its priorities are:
- Promoting Tasmanian historical, scientific, technological and cultural knowledge for the benefit of Tasmanians,
- Fostering Tasmanian public engagement and participation in the quest for objective knowledge, and
- Recognising excellence in academia and supporting Tasmanian academic excellence.
Drawing its inspiration from the illustrious original Royal Society founded in London in 1660, the Royal Society of Tasmania is one of the oldest royal societies outside the United Kingdom, having had a continuing existence since 1843.
The membership of the Royal Society of Tasmania is open to all and members, coming from many walks of life, have a variety of interests. We value the opportunity to meet, hear and talk to specialists with knowledge beyond our individual fields of interest.
The priorities of the Society are addressed through lecture programs, panel discussions, symposia, excursions, publications (including the peer reviewed annual journal “Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania”), and our library. Eminent scholars are recognised through various awards and bursaries.
In its early years the Society established the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens and a museum which formed the basis of today’s Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, with both of which institutions it maintains a close association.
The Society has a current membership of about 350 from throughout Tasmania and beyond, and meets in Hobart and Launceston. The Society is administered by a Council comprising elected and ex officio members.
The Royal Society of Tasmania is established under its own Act of the Tasmanian Parliament, permitting it to create its own By-Laws. The Patron of the Society is Her Excellency the Honourable Barbara Baker AC Governor of Tasmania.
The Society is currently based in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart, (Davey Street Entrance). The Society’s Library is based within the University of Tasmania Morris Miller Library, Sandy Bay Campus.
The Northern Branch is based at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery.
The Royal Society of Tasmania is the oldest scientific society in Australia and New Zealand and the third oldest Royal Society in the Commonwealth.
The Society was founded in 1843 by Sir John Eardley-Wilmot, Lieutenant Governor, as the Botanical and Horticultural Society of Van Diemen’s Land. Its aim was to ‘develop the physical character of the Island and illustrate its natural history and productions’.
Queen Victoria became Patron in 1844 and the name was changed to The Royal Society of Van Diemen’s Land for Horticulture, Botany and the Advancement of Science. Under the current relevant Act of Parliament, passed in 1911, the name was shortened to The Royal Society of Tasmania. A branch of the Society was formed in Launceston in 1853. It lapsed but was reconstituted in 1921 and has continued since then.
In its early years, the Society established the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. It also began building up substantial collections of both art and natural history specimens, all housed in The Royal Society of Tasmania Museum. These collections became the basis of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery when, in 1885, the Society gave them to the Government, reserving ownership only of mostly works on paper. In 1965, these remaining works – some 700 – were placed on long-term loan with the state institution.
The Society also built up a substantial Library which is now housed in the Morris Miller Library in the University of Tasmania.
Documents relating to the history of the Society
- The Royal Society of Tasmania, 1843–1943 by J. Somerville PPRST (1943) 199-226
- The Foundation Years of The Royal Society of Tasmania by Gillian Winter PPRST (1993) 127, 61-66
- The Royal Society of Tasmania Office Bearers Since 1843
- The Royal Society of Tasmania Long-Serving Office Bearers Before 1937 – portraits