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The Royal Society of New South Wales

The Society is the oldest learned society in the Southern Hemisphere, tracing its origin to the Philosophical Society of Australasia, founded in Sydney in 1821.

Our purpose is to advance knowledge through "... the encouragement of studies and investigations in Science Art Literature and Philosophy".

Membership of the Royal Society of New South Wales is open to anyone interested in Science, Art, Literature or Philosophy and their relationships. For more information, go to About us, visit our Membership Page or download our Brochure.


Forthcoming events

Wednesday 5 November 2014

1227th Ordinary General Meeting

"A drop of Optics"

Speakers: Dr Steve Lee and Dr Tri Phan, joint winners of the 2014 ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology

Lenses are an integral part of our technology-driven society that are used in areas of lighting, vision, communication, health and entertainment. Yet individuals cannot make their own lenses tailored to their own purposes. Why is this? For centuries, lenses are traditionally made with complex machinery because the need for fine grinding and re-flow moulding techniques to create smooth lens surface. So, how can we simplify such a complex process?

Nature makes lenses with droplets on a daily basis. Single dew (macrodroplet) forms through the process of condensation, where miniscule drops of water nucleate and coalesce to form millimetre-sized water droplets on a solid surface. This happens on window panes (partially wetted surface) and on glass panes of greenhouses, where they form a natural diffuser halving the transmission of the sunlight. A half-empty wine glass often displays a thin film of liquid with "tears drops” - beads of liquid forming due to the surface tension gradient (Marangoni effect). A droplet of liquid hanging off a flat surface assumes the shape of a lentil and behaves like a thin lens due to opposing forces (gravity and surface tension).

In this talk, we shall discuss the role of liquid droplets in optics and our recent discovery in harvesting solid lenses from hanging liquid droplets. Our droplet lens fabrication approach is an additive process and leaves little material loss that contrasts traditional lens manufacturing techniques such as cutting, milling and polishing. Our lenses were shown to image microscopic structures down to around 4 µm with 160x magnification. We were able to transform an ordinary commercial smartphone camera into a low-cost digital dermascope (60x magnification) that can readily visualize microscopic structures on skin such as sweat glands.

Dr W M (Steve) Lee is a Lecturer in the Research School of Engineering at the Australian National University, Canberra, where he is the head of the Applied Optics Lab. He is also a visiting fellow at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and an Associate Investigator of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Advanced Molecular Imaging. He has been awarded multiple fellowships including ANU Future Engineering Research Leader Fellowship, UNSW Vice Chancellor Fellowship and the Royal Society (UK) International Incoming Fellowship. He previously held senior industry appointments and led a team in the specialized commercial microscopy unit. In 2014, he is the co-recipient (with Dr Tri Phan) of the 2014 ANTSO Eureka Prize in Innovative Use of Technology.

He received interdisciplinary training first in electronics (NTU), followed by optical physics (Uni of St Andrews) and biomedical imaging (MGH/Harvard). He has published > 50 technical articles in top tier Optics, Applied Physics, Biochemical method journals and international conference proceedings. Recently, he has been invited to speak at the Biophotonics symposium (ICMAT 2015, Singapore), OSA Optical Congress Meeting (OFT'2014, Hawaii) and TEDx 2014 (TedxCanberra'14). He chaired the Bioimaging session at Australian Biomedical Engineering Conference 2014 and is an active member of OSA and SPIE.

The droplet lens technology has been reported in over 30 international articles and local press articles: Time.com (USA), The Australian (Australia), Xinhua (China), International Business Times (UK), Times of India (India), ABC (News), SBS-One (World News), NineNews.

Dr Tri Phan studied undergraduate medicine at the University of Sydney and undertook clinical training at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. He completed a double fellowship in Internal Medicine and Pathology under the guidance Drs Stephen Adelstein and Roger Garsia in the Department of Clinical Immunology at RPAH. He subsequently established a B cell receptor knock-in mouse model to study B cell in vivo responses in tolerance and immunity for his PhD with Professor Tony Basten and Dr Robert Brink at the Centenary Institute. His interest in defining the in vivo contexts and resolving dynamic processes in space and time lead him to post-doctoral studies with Professor Jason Cyster at the University of California, San Francisco where he used intravital two-photon microscopy to investigate the microanatomy of B cell activation.

Tri is currently at the Garvan Institute where he has established an intravital two-photon microscope facility and is focussed on applying localised photochemistry to optically mark and track rare biological events over long distances and time windows. Tri was a joint winner of the 2014 ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology.

Time: 6:00 pm for 6:30 pm

Venue: Union, Universities and Schools Club
25 Bent Street

Members: $5; non-members: $20. (Dinner after the meeting $75.)

Note dress requirement: Jacket & tie

Thursday 20 November 2014

The Liversidge Research Lecture 2014

"Recent Studies on the Total Synthesis of Natural Products and Related Systems"

Professor Martin Banwell

Research School of Chemistry, Institute of Advanced Studies, Australian National University, Canberra

A diverse range of biologically active natural products is being targeted for synthesis in our laboratories. The motivations for undertaking such work are three-fold: (a) to develop structure-activity relationship (SAR) profiles for the relevant class, (b) to develop new synthetic methodologies and (c) sometimes to establish the true structure of the natural product.1 Of course, such pursuits can become all the more fascinating when completely unexpected processes are uncovered. In this presentation, examples of all of these possibilities will be presented.

1. M. G. Banwell, Tetrahedron, 2008, 64, 4669.

Martin BANWELL was born and educated in New Zealand. In 1979 he completed his PhD in organic chemistry at the Victoria University of Wellington where he worked under the supervision of Brian Halton. After a post-Doctoral period with Leo Paquette at the Ohio State University he took up a Senior Teaching Fellowship at the University of Adelaide in South Australia. In 1982 Banwell moved to a Lectureship at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and then to an equivalent position at the University of Melbourne in 1986. He was promoted to a Readership in Organic Chemistry at the same institution in 1993. In 1995 he moved to the Research School of Chemistry (RSC) at the Australian National University as Senior Fellow. In 1999 he was appointed Professor of Chemistry and served as Director of the RSC from the beginning of 2008 until mid-2013.

Professor Banwell's research interests are in the area of synthetic organic chemistry, particularly the development of new methodologies and their application to the total synthesis of biologically active natural products. He is the author or co-author of some three hundred journal articles in this broad area. A particular emphasis has been the exploitation of strained organic compounds and the products of whole-cell biotransformations for such purposes. In recognition of his work, Professor Banwell has received a number of awards including the Rennie and Birch Medals of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute. In 2003 he received the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK) Award in Synthetic Organic Chemistry and was elected to Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Science in the following year.

Time: 5:30 pm for 6:15 pm start. Refreshments served outside the theatre from 5:30 pm

Lecture Theatre 4, School of Chemistry, Eastern Avenue, University of Sydney

The full 2014 programme may be found here

Recent events

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

1226th Ordinary General Meeting

"Australia's most spectacular environmental rehabilitation project: Phillip Island, Pacific Ocean"

Dr Peter Coyne

Perched atop a submerged seamount, in turn atop a submarine ridge, Phillip Island and its close neighbour Norfolk Island are tiny specks, the only land in a vast expanse (2.5 million square kilometres) of the southwest Pacific Ocean. Both islands were created by volcanic activity between 2.8 and 2.2 million years ago. The plateau top of the seamount, 100 x 35 kilometres, is between 30 and 75 metres below present sea level. Sequential ice ages during the last 2 million years exposed the entire plateau, an area about 100 times the size of the present islands. Such an area could have accommodated about four times as many species as the present islands. During the last ice age the entire plateau was exposed for 24,000 years until 13,000 years ago. Sea level 25 metres higher, reached 10,000 years ago, still exposed an island about 35 km long, large enough to accommodate more than double the species count of the present islands and joining these islands with dry land. An island at least this large was exposed for 60,000 years during the last ice age, before the sea reached its present level just 6,000 years ago. (Read more...)


Wednesday, 3 September 2014

1225th Ordinary General Meeting

"The Fourth Dimension and beyond: the paradox of working in unimaginable worlds"

Scientia Professor Ian Sloan AO FRSN

Professor Ian Sloan is not content to work in an environment of four dimensions – he is quite at home in space with many more dimensions than most of us are accustomed to. Many mathematical problems can be considered as problems and multidimensional space – the question is how do we imagine these environments? The dimensions of a space can be considered to be the number of directions that you can go from any single point within it. For example, in our four-dimensional world, from any point we can go in three spacial directions, plus time. If we are in a six-dimensional environment, we can go in six directions from any given point and mathematically we don't need more than six variables to describe this environment. But why would we be interested in multidimensional spaces?

(Read more...)


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

1224th Ordinary General Meeting

"Science: essential education and the role of the Australian Academy of Science"

Emeritus Scientia Professor Eugenie Lumbers AM FAA Dist FRSN

Eugenie LumbersThe world is experiencing an exponential rate of technological progress. Change was relatively gradual from the time and the domestication of the horse until the 17th century. Indeed, in the early stages the Industrial Revolution, industry was still heavily dependent on horse-drawn transport. In 1900, just 14 years after the invention of the motor car, there were still 300,000 horses in service in London. That same year, there were 0.11 cars per thousand people in the US; in 2009 there are 828. This enormous, rapidly accelerating technological change took place as a consequence of science and its application in development of technology. The question is why was such enthusiasm for science in the 1940s and 1950s but this has largely disappeared today in many countries, not the least of which is Australia. This poses a major challenge for Australia – how will we keep up with technological progress when few people are interested in seeking a science or technological education? Despite the apparent interest in science, in a multitude of TV programmes for example, this is actually positioning science as entertainment, not as true science. (Read more...)

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

New Fellows cocktail party and 1223rd Ordinary General Meeting

"What causes Multiple Sclerosis?"

Professor Graeme Stewart AM

Professor Graham Stewart AM, director of clinical immunology at Westmead Hospital has researched the genetic influences on disease, in particular on multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is the commonest chronic neurological disorder of young at all. It usually starts with a relapsing/remitting phase (with symptoms occur and then go into remission at for extended periods), usually with onset at about the age of 30. The disease can be relatively benign with periods of disability, it can present as a relapsing/remitting disease with gradual increase in disability, or in about 10-20% of patients it can present as being "primary progressive”, where disability progressively increases over time.

MS is caused by the body's immune system malfunctioning – macrophages devour the myelin sheath around nerve cells, exposing the nerve axon and thereby disrupting the flow of information along the nerve cell. The body is able to repair the damage by re-myelinating the nerve cells after this initial attack however if the myelin is attacked the second time in the same place, the body is unable to repair the sheath and relapse occurs. Hence the symptoms of the disease progress. (Read more...)

Seal of the RSNSW


New Fellows elected

The Society presented testamurs to eleven new Fellows at the Union University & Schools Club on Wed 2 July 2014. (more...)

Presentation of Fellowships and the 2013 Awards

The Society's Annual Dinner was held at the Union University & Schools Club on Wed 7 May 2014. Eleven fellowships were presented and prizes and medals were formally presented to the 2013 Award winners. (more...)

Walter Burfitt Prize Professor Michelle Simmons, UNSW
James Cook Medal Professor Brien Holden, UNSW
Edgeworth David Medal Associate Professor David Wilson, UNSW
Clarke Medal Professor William Griffin, Macquarie University

Distinguished Fellows Lecture 2014

The Society's Distinguished Fellows lecture was presented by Prof Barry Jones AO Dist FRSN. (more...)

Peter Doherty invested

Prof Peter Doherty AC Dist FRSN was invested by the Governor at Government House on Wed 16 April 2014 (more...)



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