Born in Perth, Western Australia, he began his botanical career with the Western Australian Department of Agriculture in 1937. He transferred to the Western Australian Herbarium in 1944, and was appointed curator in 1960. One of his main research interests was the application of botany to agriculture, and to this end he undertook substantial research into toxic plants. He published numerous papers on a range of subjects, but does not appear to have described any new taxa. He also oversaw the planning and construction of the current herbarium building. He retired in 1974.
- Hall, Norman (1978). Botanists of the Eucalypts. Australia: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. ISBN 0643002715.
- "Royce, Robert D. (1914 - 2008)". Australian National Botanic Gardens. Retrieved 2009-03-01.