Royal Society of Tasmania

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The Royal Society of Tasmania (RST) was formed in 1843.

The RST was the first Royal Society outside the United Kingdom. It started as the "Tasmanian Society" formed by Sir John Franklin assisted by Ronald Campbell Gunn. It was responsible for much of the work in founding the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery[1]

On the event of the sesquicentenary of the Society - it published the volume Walk to the West to publish James Backhouse Walker's diary of a walk in 1887, including William Piguenit's paintings from that journey as well.

The mission of the Royal Society of Tasmania is “The advancement of knowledge” and its priorities are:

  • Promoting Tasmanian historical, scientific and technological knowledge for the benefit of Tasmanians,
  • Fostering Tasmanian public engagement and participation in the quest for objective knowledge,
  • Recognising excellence in academia and supporting Tasmanian academic excellence, and
  • Providing objective advice for policy relating to Tasmanian issues.

Drawing its inspiration from the illustrious original Royal Society founded in London in 1660, the Royal Society of Tasmania is the oldest royal society 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 programmes, 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.

Now 173 years old, 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, Professor, the Honourable Kate Warner AM 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 Chapter is based at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery.


The Royal Society of Tasmania is the oldest Royal 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.


Prior to her death Truganini had pleaded to colonial authorities for a respectful burial, and requested that her ashes be scattered in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel. She feared that her body would be dissected and analyzed for scientific purposes as Aboriginal Tasmanian Wiliam Lenne's body had been.[12] Despite her wishes, within two years, her skeleton was exhumed by the Royal Society of Tasmania and later placed on display.


Further reading[edit]

  • (1895) History of the Royal Society of Tasmania, with portraits of the President, Council and Secretary. Hobart : The Society, Ferguson no. 15176.
  • Walker, James Backhouse. Early Tasmania : papers read before the Royal Society of Tasmania during the years 1888 to 1899. Hobart : John Vail, Government Printer, 1914.

External links[edit]