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 Tasmania 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.