Royal Society of South Australia

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The Royal Society of South Australia (RSSA) is a learned society whose interest is in science, particularly, but not only, of South Australia. The major aim of the society is the promotion and diffusion of scientific knowledge, particularly in relation to natural sciences. The society was originally the Adelaide Philosophical Society, founded on 10 January 1853. The title "Royal" was granted by Queen Victoria in October 1880 and the society changed its name to its present name at this time. It was incorporated in 1883. It also operates under the banner Science South Australia.



The origins of the Royal Society are related to the South Australian Literary and Scientific Association, founded in August 1834, before the colonisation of South Australia, and whose book collection eventually formed the kernel of the State Library of South Australia. [1]

The Society had its origins in a meeting at the Stephens Place home of J. L. Young (founder of the Adelaide Educational Institution) on the evening of 10 January 1853. Members inducted to the new "Adelaide Philosophical Society" were Messrs. John Brown, John Howard Clark, Davy, Doswell, Charles Gregory Feinaigle, Gilbert, Gosse, Hamilton, Hammond, W. B. Hays, Jones, Kay, Mann, W. W. Whitridge, Williams, Wooldridge and John Lorenzo Young. [2] J. Howard Clark was elected secretary. On 15 September rules were adopted and His Excellency the Governor Sir Henry Young was elected president. [3] T. D. Smeaton has also been credited with helping found the Society. [4] Its aim was "the diffusion and advancement of the Arts and Sciences", and one of its earliest subjects of discussion was the formation of a museum showing the natural history of the Colony. [1]

At the time of its first Annual General Meeting membership had risen to 35, [5] and in 1859 the Society was incorporated under the South Australian Institute Act . The establishment of the University of Adelaide in 1875 revitalised the Society, which had flagged for some years before. [1]

It received royal patronage, becoming the Royal Society of South Australia late in 1880, [6] [1] following the nomenclature used in other Australian colonies, and perhaps hoping to emulate their success. [7]

The Field Naturalists Society of South Australia was formed as a section of the Society in 1883. [8] In 1943 Constance Eardley became the first woman to be elected to the Council of the Society. [9]


There are five classes of members: [10]

Awards and medals

The society awards: [11]


The RSSA has published the journal Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia since 1879, previously (from 1877–1878) Transactions and proceedings and report of the Philosophical Society of Adelaide. [12] From 2004, the journal partnered with the South Australian Museum in the Southern Scientific Press, amalgamating their two journals. [13] From 2005, the journal has been available in electronic form only, via Taylor & Francis Online. [12]

In June 2020 an annotated list of 95 Australian bird fossils was published in the Transactions, the first such list since 1975, contributing to the documented knowledge of bird extinctions. The list includes three species of huge flamingos from the Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre and Lake Frome areas of South Australia, which were estimated to inhabit the area for 25 million years before becoming extinct about 140,000 years ago, most likely from drought. There were also penguins measuring about 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) tall, which lived between about 60 million and 30 million years ago, dying out in the Oligocene. [14] [15] [16]

List of presidents

Royal Society of South Australia Presidents: [17]

1853–1854 Sir Henry Young
1855 Benjamin Babbage
1856–1861 Sir Richard MacDonnell
1862–1868 Sir Dominick Daly
1869–1872 James Ferguson
1877 Sir William Jervois
1878–1879 Ralph Tate
1880–1881 Sir Samuel Way
1882 Sir Charles Todd
1883 H. T. Whittell
1884 Sir Horace Lamb
1885 Henry Mais [18]
1886–1889 Edward Rennie
1889 Sir Edward Stirling
1890–1891 Thomas Blackburn [19]
1892–1894 Ralph Tate (2nd term)
1895–1896 Walter Howchin
1897–1899 William Lennox Cleland
1900–1903 Edward Rennie (2nd term)
1903–1921 Sir Joseph Verco
1921 Richard Sanders Rogers [20]
1922–1924 Robert Pulleine [21]
1925 Sir Douglas Mawson
1926 Theodore Osborn
1927 Frederic Wood Jones
1927–1928 Sir John Cleland
1929–1930 Leonard Keith Ward
1931 Charles Fenner [22]
1932 Thomas Harvey Johnston [23]
1933 James Arthur Prescott
1934 John McConnell Black
1935 Thomas Draper Campbell [24]
1936 Cecil Madigan
1937 Herbert Mathew Hale [25]
1938 James Davidson [26] [27]
1939 Henry Fry
1940 Ralph W. Segnit
1941 Sir John Cleland (2nd term)
1942 Joseph Garnett Wood
1943 William Ternent Cooke [28]
1944 Herbert Womersley [29]
1945 Sir Douglas Mawson (2nd term)
1946 Clarence Sherwood Piper [30]
1947 Hugh Christian Trumble [31]
1948 D. C. Swan
1949 Norman Tindale [32]
1950 A. W. Kleeman
1951 Bernard Charles Cotton
1952 H. G. Andrewartha [33]
1953 S. B. Dickinson
1954 J. K. Taylor
1955 R. V. Southcott
1956 C. G. Stephens
1957 I. M. Thomas
1958 L. W. Parkin
1959–1960 T. R. N. Lothian
1961 R. V. Southcott (2nd term)
1962 Nelly Hooper Ludbrook
1963 J. T. Hutton
1964 A. R. Alderman
1965 S.J. Edmonds
1966 Brian Daily
1967 Hugh Bryan Spencer Womersley
1968 K. R. Miles
1969 F. J. Mitchell
1970 C. B. Wells
1971 W. G. Inglis
1972 Helmut Wopfner
1973 K. E. Lee
1974 G. F. Gross
1975 J. W. Holmes
1976 C. R. Twidale
1977 B. P. Webb
1978 J. J. H. Szent-Ivany
1979 J. K. Ling
1980 S. A. Shepherd
1981 Warren Bonython
1982–1983 D. W. P. Corbett
1984 J. S. Womersley
1985–1986 Mike Tyler
1987 T. D. Scott
1988–1989 G. M. E. Mayo
1990–1992 N. A. Locket
1992–1994 W. D. Williams
1994–1996 M. Davies
1996–1998 T. C. R. White
1998–2000 M. A. J. Williams
2000–2002 N. F. Alley
2002–2004 O. W. Wiebkin
2004–2006 Rob W. Fitzpatrick [34]
2006–2008 Allan Pring [35]
2008–2010 John T. Jennings [36]
2010–2012 Nicholas J. Souter
2012–2014 Craig R. Williams
2014–2016 C. Michael Bull
2016–Present J. Long

Verco Medal recipients

"The medal shall be awarded for distinguished scientific work published by a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Australia. It is the highest honour that the Society can bestow on one of its Fellows. Only those who have made a significant, outstanding contribution to their field(s) of study receive the award." [11]

The medal is named in honour of Joseph Verco. The first award of the medal was to Prof Walter Howchin in 1929. [37]

Previous winners include:

2004 Neville Alley [38]
1962 Herbert Andrewartha
1996 Mike Archer (paleontologist)
1989 Ian Beveridge
1930 John McConnell Black
2003 John Bowie [39]
1933 John Burton Cleland
Patrick De Deckker
1960 Henry Herbert Finlayson
1999 Rob Fitzpatrick
1970 Martin Glaessner [40]
1946 Herbert M. Hale
1935 Thomas Harvey Johnston [41]
1929 Walter Howchin
1963 Nelly Hooper Ludbrook
1945 Cecil Madigan
1931 Douglas Mawson
1971 Charles P. Mountford
1957 Clarence Sherwood Piper [42]
1938 James Arthur Prescott
2008 Scoresby Shepherd
2010 Mike Smith [43]
1968 Reg Sprigg
1956 Norman Tindale
1980 Michael J. Tyler
1955 Leonard Keith Ward
Tom White
2007 Martin Williams [44]
1990 William David (Bill) Williams [45]
1943 Herbert Womersley
1969 Hugh Bryan Spencer Womersley [46]
1944 Joseph Garnett Wood
1973 Helmut Wopfner [47]
1932not awarded
1934not awarded
1936–1937not awarded
1939–1942not awarded
1947–1954not awarded
1958not awarded
1964not awarded
2013 Alan Cooper [48]
2014 John Long [49]
2017Corey Bradshaw [50]
2018Mike Lee [51]

Notable members

Notable members of the Royal Society of South Australia have included:

See also

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Further reading