The Society was formed by Dr James Bowman, Dr Henry Douglass, both medical practitioners, Judge Barron Field, a justice of the Supreme Court, Major Frederick Goulburn, the Colonial Secretary, Captain Francis Irvine an Army officer and farmer and Edward Wollstonecraft, a merchant, "with a view to enquiring into the various branches of physical science of this vast continent and its adjacent regions". On his arrival in Sydney late in 1821 the newly-appointed Governor, Sir Thomas Brisbane, was offered and accepted the position of President.
Following a period of informal activity, with the encouragement of Dr Douglass, the Society was revitalised and renamed the Australian Philosophical Society on 19 January 1850. In 1855, the year of the establishment of the Parliament of NSW, the Society was renamed The Philosophical Society of New South Wales. On 12th December 1866, Queen Victoria granted Royal Assent to the Society and it was renamed again as The Royal Society of New South Wales. The Society was incorporated by an Act of the New South Wales Parliament in 1881.
The rules of the Society originally provided that the Governor of New South Wales should be President ex officio. After the establishment of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, the Governor-General was invited to be Patron of the Society and the Governor of New South Wales the Vice-Patron. Since 1938 to 2014, the Society was under the joint patronage of the Governor-General and the Governor of New South Wales.
Currently the Governor of New South Wales is the Society's Vice Regal Patron.
Throughout its history, the Society has done much to foster local research, particularly in science, through meetings, symposia, publications and international scientific exchange, and has supported and fostered the endeavours of other organisations dedicated to the furtherance of knowledge.
The Society encourages "...studies and investigations in Science, Art, Literature and Philosophy" through the following activities:
The Society's head office is in Sydney and has an active branch in Mittagong in the Southern Highlands and a branch Orange in the Central West of NSW. Regular meetings are held that are well attended by both members and visitors.
The Society was incorporated by Act of the New South Wales Parliament in 1881. The Act of Incorporation, Rules and By-Laws are here:
Our most recent annual report can be found here: