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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 1 April 2015

Annual General Meeting (Members and Fellows only) followed by the 1231st Ordinary General Meeting (visitors welcome)

Members and Fellows are invited to attend the Annual General Meeting of the Society to be held on Wednesday 1 April at the Union University and Schools Club, 25 Bent Street, Sydney. Discussion of the Green Paper will commence at 5:15 pm, followed by the AGM, commencing at 5:45 pm. Please visit the Events 2015 page to download documents for the meeting.

1231st Ordinary General Meeting

"Is the Brain the Right Size?"

Speaker: Scientia Professor George Paxinos AO DSc FASSA FAA FRSN

NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow, Neuroscience Research Australia and University of New South Wales

George Paxinos with friendProfessor Paxinos studied at Berkeley, McGill and Yale universities. He is the author of forty-six books on the brain. His first book, The Rat Brain in Stereotaxic Coordinates, is the third most cited book in science following Molecular Cloning and The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

He produced two paradigm shifts in the field of neuroscience. The first, during a sabbatical at Cambridge in 1977, he learned immunohistochemistry and applied it for the first time in brain atlases. That is, he used the chemical phenotype of neurons as a criterion for identifying brain regions and for establishing brain homologies across experimental animals and humans. The second, in his avian brain atlas, he used neuromeric criteria to delineate the entire brain for the first time.

Most scientists working on the relation between the human brain and neurologic or psychiatric diseases, or animal models of these diseases, use his maps and concepts of brain organization. His human brain atlases are the most accurate ones for the identification of deep structures and are used in surgical theatres.


Pre-Socratic philosophers rejected supernatural explanations for the existence of the physical world and the nature of the soul. These philosophers rejected gods and magic. Later Hippocrates said that men aught to know that from the brain, and only from it, derive our pleasures, happiness, laughter as well as pain and sorrow.

After the long battle to find the seat of the soul, psychology lost its soul in the 1930s. According to Hebb (1958), the mind is the integration of the activity of the neurons of the brain. That is, there is no ghost in the machine. If the relation between brain and behaviour is 1 to 1, then there is no need to hypothesize the presence of the soul to understand behaviour and modify it.

Professor Paxinos's laboratory has constructed brain atlases using identical nomenclature to enable scientists to navigate seamlessly between the brain of humans and experimental animals to test hypotheses inspired by human considerations and relate data from experimental animals to humans.

The human brain features many more homologies with the brain of monkey (e.g. virtually all areas of the cortex are homologous), of the rat and of the bird than previously thought. Using MR images in mice and non-human primates he is attempting to provide 3D volumes of canonical brains against which transgenic varieties with clinical significance can be compared.

Finally, on the issue of evolution and survival, the brain is wonderful, but it is not omniscient. Both the dazzling technological success of our species and the worrisome environmental degradation it has produced are reflections of the function of our brains. Professor Paxinos concludes: If the brain were smaller than what it is, it would not have been able to support language and the development of science and technology which today threatens existence; if the brain were larger than what it is, it might have been able to understand the problem and possibly even solve it. The brain is just not the right size.

Venue: Union Universities & Schools Club,
25 Bent St (cnr Bent and Phillip Streets),

Please note dress code: jacket and tie.

Time: Green Paper discussion commences at 5:15 pm, AGM commences at 5:45 pm followed by the 1231st OGM at 6:30 pm. Enjoy a welcome drink from 5:00 pm. (Book for dinner after the meeting: $75 per head.)


Recent events

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Joint Meeting with the Australian Institute of Physics

"Quantum emitters in wide band gap semiconductors"

Speaker: Associate Professor Igor Aharonovich School of Physics and Advanced Materials, University of Technology, Sydney

Igor Aharonovich

Associate Professor Aharonovich received his BSc (2005) and MSc (2007) in Materials Engineering from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. He then moved to Australia and pursued his PhD studies at the University of Melbourne on the topic of single emitters in diamond. In 2011, he took a postdoctoral position at Harvard University with the group of Prof Evelyn Hu. His research was focused on nanofabrication of optical cavities out of diamond, silicon carbide and gallium nitride. In 2013 Professor Aharonovich joined the School of Physics and Advanced Materials at UTS as a Senior Lecturer and an ARC DECRA fellow and was promoted to Associated Professor in 2015.


Wednesday 4 March 2015

1230th Ordinary General Meeting

"Super-resolution microscopy: Understanding how T cells make decisions"

Speaker: Scientia Professor Katharina Gaus, ARC Centre of Excellence in Advanced Molecular Imaging
NHMRC Program in Membrane Interface Biology, University of NSW


At the 1230th OGM Scientia Professor Katharina Gaus case of insight into her ground-breaking work on understanding the structure of T-cells, one of the major components of the immune system. Professor Gaus is a cell biologist who uses super-resolution microscopy to explore the structure of cell membranes. Hopefully, this will lead to improved treatments for infectious, cancer and autoimmune diseases.


The adaptive immune system is the body’s first line of defence against infection. It is acquired over the life of the organism, developing a "memory” for antigens (antigens are the invading agent). This highly sophisticated system is antigen-specific and must be able to distinguish between foreign antigens and substances made by the host. It is mediated by T-lymphocytes – a type of white blood cell that plays a central role in cell-mediated immunity. T-lymphocytes are characterised by the presence of a T-cell receptor (TCR) on the cell-surface. (Read more...)



Monday 16 February 2015

The Four Societies Lecture

"Latest developments in Small Modular Reactors"

Held in conjunction with the Nuclear Engineering Panel of the Sydney Branch of Engineers Australia, the Australian Nuclear Association and the Australian Institute of Energy

Dr Adi Paterson - Chief Executive Officer, ANSTO

The largest source of energy today is fossil fuel which we know has significant CO2 issues. The second largest source is nuclear, using uranium. Dr Paterson began his talk by showing that the country generating the most energy per capita is France with its successful harnessing of nuclear technology, but interestingly Brazil is also successful with its use of ethanol from sugar cane. Australia was shown to be in the worst sector with almost the highest cost per capita of electric power generation, more than twice as expensive as France and similar to the high cost in Denmark which relies heavily on wind energy. (Read more...)

Wednesday 4 February 2015

1229th Ordinary General Meeting and Scholarship presentations

The Society funds the Royal Society of New South Wales Scholarships in order to acknowledge and support outstanding achievements by early-career individuals working towards a higher research degree in a science related field. The scholarship winners were presented with their awards and gave presentations on their work:

Melanie Laird (University of Sydney, School of Biological Sciences)

Melanie is a University Medallist in her second year of a PhD under the supervision of Professor Michael Thompson, studying reproduction in marsupials.

Ruth Wells (University of Sydney, School of Psychology)

Ruth is enrolled in a doctorate of clinical psychology and Master of Science programme. With an exceptional display of initiative, Ruth built relationships with psychologists, psychiatrists, academics and health workers in Jordan over the internet; crowd funded her travel costs, and then completed the research project in Jordan where she explored barriers to mental health care for Syrian refugees living in Jordan.

Stephen Parker (UNSW, School of Chemistry)

Stephen Parker is in his final year of a PhD in the Nanomaterials group in the School of Chemistry at UNSW where he is making surfaces that can capture cells from a blood sample and then release a single targeted cell that has a particular characteristic.

Tuesday 9 December 2014 - The Dirac Lecture

"The beauty and serendipity of blue-sky research"

Professor Serge Haroche, Nobel Laureate (2012)

Head of the Collège de France, Paris

Professor Serge Haroche was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize for Physics (jointly with David J. Wineland) for "ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems", for their work on understanding the photon.

The Dirac Lecture is presented by the University of NSW, in conjunction with the Royal Society of NSW and the Australian Institute of Physics. The lecture was held in the Tyree Room, John Niland Scientia Building, University of NSW

Wednesday 3 December 2014

1228th Ordinary General Meeting, Jak Kelly Award and Christmas Party

The Society held its annual Jak Kelly Award presentation at the Union, University and Schools Club. The late Professor Kelly's widow, Mrs Irene Kelly, presented the Jak Kelly Award to Ms Linh Tran who presented a short outline of her work.

Linh Tran

Linh Tran is a third-year PhD student at Centre for Medical Radiation Physics (CMRP), University of Wollongong. Her supervisor, Professor Anatoly Rozenfeld, is a founder of the concept of silicon microdosimetry and has guided Linh in-depth into the project. Linh's research field involves the development of innovative semiconductor detectors for dosimetry and microdosimetry in radiation protection and radiation therapy applications and their radiation hardness. Linh was a major contributor in the development and study of large area alpha particle silicon cleanable detectors for in-field measurement of soil radioactive contamination and new generation of 3D silicon microdosimeters mimicking human biological cells and used for measuring dose equivalent in mixed radiation fields relevant to the space radiation environment as well as in heavy ion therapy.

Linh has authored six papers as a first author and presenting them at IEEE NSS MIC, RADECS and NSREC. Linh received a Master Degree in Physics in 2008 from Dubna University in Russia. She then began her professional career at the Vietnam Atomic Energy Institute and worked as a researcher in radiation protection for three years before coming to Australia as a PhD student. Linh was awarded a full scholarship for her studies in Russia and in Australia. She is now very much enjoying her research with the CMRP team at the University of Wollongong and hopes that innovative radiation measurement devices will be available soon for the improvement of our quality of life.

The presentation was followed by the Society's Christmas Party.

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

The Liversidge Research Lecture 2014 was delivered by Professor Martin Banwell at the University of Sydney on Thursday, 20 November 2014. Professor Banwell is an organic chemist and is one of Australia's most accomplished researchers into the synthesis of complex organic compounds. In this year's Liversidge Research Lecture, he described work that has been done in his group over a number of years to synthesise materials that have wide-ranging applications, especially as pharmaceuticals.

The starting point for his work is a family organic chemicals called arenes. These are substances based on a structure of six carbon atoms arranged in a ring, with each carbon atom having a hydrogen atom attached (read more...)

Seal of the RSNSW


Nominations for Council

The annual general meeting of the Society will take place on Wednesday, 1 April 2015. Nominations are open for Fellows and Members who would be interested to serve on the Council. The nomination form may be downloaded here.

Awards for 2014

The winners of the Society's 2014 awards are:

(read more...)

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