Society Fellow awarded a prestigious international fellowship

Profess John Shine The Royal Society of NSW is delighted that one of its Fellows, Professor John Shine AC FRS FRSN FAA, has just been elected, in 2020, as a Fellow of the Royal Society of London. He is well known for his role in discovering the Shine-Dalgarno gene sequence, and was responsible for the initiation and termination of protein-synthesis. Further, he was a central figure in the cloning of the insulin and growth hormone genes, was the first to clone a human gene, and the first to demonstrate that hormone genes cloned in bacteria could be expressed in a biologically active form.

Professionally, he served as Executive Director of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research from 1990 until 2011, and as Chairman of the biopharmaceutical company CSL from 2011-18. He is also an ex-Chairman of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) and a past President of the Museum of Applied Arts and Science (the Powerhouse Museum and Sydney Observatory).

He was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1996 for services to medical research, and in 2010 was awarded the Prime Minister's Prize for Science, the nation‘s highest scientific award. In 2017, he was appointed as a Companion of the Order of Australia. Since May 2018, he has been President of the Australian Academy of Science, of which he has been a Fellow since 1994.


Quantum computing startup led by Royal Society Fellow joins the IBM Q Network

Dr Mohammad Choucair Archer Materials, an Australian start-up led by CEO Dr Mohammad Choucair—a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW and a former member of the Society’s Council—has just joined the IBM Q Network. Archer, which is developing room temperature quantum computing technology, is the first Australian company to join the IBM Q network as an ecosystem partner. Dr Choucair speaking with the industry newsletter ZDNet spoke of advancing the commercial readiness of Archer's 12CQ qubit technology and his desire that Australian businesses and consumers will be amongst the first beneficiaries of this exciting new technology. Chip prototypes for the 12CQ qubit processor are being built at the Sydney Nanoscience Hub at the University of Sydney.


Death of Lord Robert May of Oxford-Distinguished Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW

Lord Robert May The Society is saddened to learn of the death of one of its Distinguished Fellows, Lord May of Oxford, OM AC Kt FRS DistFRSN FAA FTSE HonFAIB, on 28 April 2020, aged 84. Lord May was a pioneering Australian scientist whose work in biology led to the development of chaos theory. He was one of Australia's most accomplished scientists, being elevated to the peerage in 2001, and rising to serve as the Chief Scientific Advisor to the United Kingdom Government (1995–2000), and as President of the Royal Society (2000–05).

Born in Sydney on 8 January 1936, he completed his PhD in theoretical physics at the University of Sydney in 1959, before taking a lectureship in applied mathematics at Harvard University (1959–61) and subsequently returning to the University of Sydney in 1962 where he was appointed to a Chair in Theoretical Physics, in 1969, at the age of 33. His career then took him to Princeton where, as Professor of Zoology, he made pioneering advances during the 70s and 80s in the field of population biology through the application of advanced mathematical techniques. He played a key role in the development of the field of theoretical ecology, subsequently applying these methods to the study of disease and biodiversity. From 1988 to 1995 he held a Royal Society Research Professorship at Imperial College and the University of Oxford, where he became a Fellow of Merton College.

He was awarded a Knighthood in 1996 and was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1998, both for “services to science” In 2001, he was one made of the first 15 Life Peers created by the House of Lords Appointments Commission, while in 2002, Her Majesty The Queen appointed him to the Order of Merit—only the ninth Australian in its 100-year history.

His many honours included the Royal Swedish Academy’s Crafoord Prize; the Swiss-Italian Balzan Prize; and the Japanese Blue Planet Prize. He was a Foreign Member of the US National Academy of Sciences, an Overseas Fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and several other Academies and Learned Societies in the UK, USA and Australia, and a Distinguished Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW. In 2007, he received the Royal Society's Copley Medal, its oldest (1731) and most prestigious award, given annually for “outstanding achievements in research in any branch of science”.

Tributes to the passing of a truly gifted polymath whose achievements spanned biology, physics and public policy can be read in his obituary in the Guardian. Other obituaries and links to his achievements can be found in Lord May's entry on the Late Distinguished Fellows page.


Outstanding contributions to the Society recognised by the RSNSW Medal and Citations

RSNSW Seal From time to time, the Society recognises Members and Fellows who have made important contributions to the Society and its work. This is through the Society Medal, which is awarded from time to time to a Member or Fellow who has made meritorious contributions to the Society’s administration, organisation, and endeavours, and through the Society Citations, which recognise significant contributions to the Society which have not been recognised in other ways.

This year, at the 1282nd Ordinary General Meeting, held on 22 April 2020, the Society Medal for 2019 was awarded to previous Emeritus Professor Brynn Hibbert AM FRSN, a past President and current Vice-President of the Society, while Citations for 2019 were awarded to past Council members Dr Eric Aslaksen FRSN and Professor E. James Kehoe FRSN. To read further about their outstanding contributions to the Royal Society, please follow the links provided.


The "Ozzie" smell detection threshold test -- an olfactory acuity test while pre-symptomatic for COVID-19

The ozzie smell detection test materials A high proportion of COVID-19 patients experience a total or partial loss of smell. This, in turn, has led to a call for anosmia (smell loss) to be treated as a symptom of the disease. Of importance in managing the coronavirus pandemic is the possibility that smell loss can begin as the only symptom in a person who is otherwise well, but who may be an unaware carrier and a potential spreader of the virus.

A current paper in the Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of NSW by Dr Graham Bell FRSN describes a novel, simple home test (requiring only regular household items) for detecting any loss in the sense of smell, as soon it it happens, alerting individuals to the potential onset of COVID-19.


Speaking of the Music … the Magic of the Violin

J.S. BachOn 27 February 2020 the Royal Society of NSW and the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts presented a celebration of the 300th anniversary of Bach’s solo violin pieces with a lecture by Dr David Hush FRSN on Bach’s enduring popularity and influence. The evening featured performances by award winning violinist Anna Da Silva Chen of Bach’s Sonata for Solo Violin No. 1 in G minor BWV 1001 and the World Premiere of Partita for Solo Violin (2019), composed by David Hush and commissioned by the Royal Society.

The evening’s program can be accessed from the Royal Society's YouTube Channel through the following playlist links:


Release of videos from the RSNSW Space Forum: Launch of RSNSW YouTube Channel

RSNSW LogoIn the spirit of advancing knowledge, the Royal Society of NSW is making available the videos from the 7th November 2019 Forum “Making SPACE for Australia”, held in conjunction with the four Learned Academies. The videos and related slide presentations for each individual speaker have been uploaded to the Society’s YouTube channel, launched on 19 March 2020.

You can conveniently access these via the “Making SPACE” article which provides the event’s program and speaker list (with links to the video and presentation slide content), together with a report on the day. You are welcome to share these links or the link to any individual presentation via your own communication channels.

We also encourage you to subscribe to our YouTube channel (for which a Google account is required) and to click on the bell icon to be notified by email when new content is posted.


The Royal Society and the COVID-19 Pandemic

RSNSW Logo The Royal Society of NSW wishes to assure all Members and Fellows of the Royal Society of NSW that the Society’s Council takes very seriously its responsibility to safeguard the health of its constituency throughout the pandemic, and not only to conform to Government expectations but also to encourage others to do so as well. Therefore, no face-to-face meetings, lectures, or social events can be held.

The Society will use this time to polish its 21st century digital skills. We will continue our usual programs and introduce new ones, all online and cost free. We intend to help you enjoy weeks or months in solitary splendour with:

  1. The Ordinary General Meetings and other lectures to be held online.
  2. The Annual General Meeting and the Council election to be held online, allowing all Members and Fellows to take part in voting—a first for the Society, and an improvement to our election process: previously, it was difficult to vote if not attending the AGM in person.
  3. We were about to invite our Members and Fellows to a new series of occasional lectures titled [email protected]_house, which Her Excellency, the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of NSW, had asked us to hold at Government House, followed by a reception. We hope that these will still be held as online events, but unfortunately, Her Excellency’s generous hospitality cannot be enjoyed virtually!
  4. A new interview series, in which you will get to know Members and Fellows and the subjects they study.
  5. YouTube videos and podcasts of lectures and performances such as the wonderful Speaking of the Music … the Magic of Solo Violin by David Hush with live performances by Anna Da Silva Chen—accessible from the preceding link or via our YouTube playlists.

    This week, the Society made available the videos from the 7th November 2019 Forum Making SPACE for Australia, held in conjunction with the four Learned Academies. The videos and related slide presentations for each individual speaker have been uploaded to the Society’s YouTube channel which was launched on 19 March 2020. You can conveniently access these via the Making SPACE article. This provides the event’s program and speaker list (with links to the video and presentation slide content), together with a report on the day. You are welcome to share these links, or the link to any individual presentation, via your own communication channels.

    It is planned to release new content, including recordings of the events described here, on a regular basis.

    We also encourage you to subscribe to our YouTube channel (for which a Google account is required), and to click on the bell icon to be notified by email when new content is posted.
  6. SMSA-RSNSW joint lectures for this year, On the Shoulders of Giants, will take place online.
  7. The programs of the Hunter Branch and the Southern Highlands Branch will join Sydney programs online, so we all get more programs and tap into a larger pool of talent.
  8. The Annual Dinner, scheduled for May, to our great disappointment, had to be cancelled. Professor Brian Schmidt AC FRS FAA DistFRSN, Vice-Chancellor of the ANU and Nobel Laureate in Physics, was to be our speaker. We have invited him to give his lecture, “Evidence and expertise in a post-truth world“, online.

The year 2020 is a special year as we plan for our 200th Birthday in 2021. We will celebrate our 199th Birthday in June of this year. We want you all to be there in person or, more likely online, to join in the celebration.

We urge all our Members and Fellows to follow the medical advice from the Commonwealth and NSW Departments of Health. Stay well, so we can all look forward to better days and meet face-to-face for our Bicentennial. In the meantime, stay in touch through the Society’s monthly Bulletin and our improved website.

Emeritus Professor Ian Sloan AO FAA FRSN
President, Royal Society of NSW


RSNSW Fellow named NSW Woman of the Year 2020

Professor Maria Kavallaris AM FRSN The Royal Society of NSW is delighted that one of its Fellows and leading childhood cancer researcher, Professor Maria Kavallaris AM FRSN, has been named NSW Woman of the Year for 2020 by the NSW Premier, Ms Gladys Berejiklian.

Maria’s pathway to cancer research, and the development of less toxic treatments for childhood cancers, had a very personal beginning, with her diagnosis of cancer at the age of 21. Speaking with the Sydney Morning Herald, she referred to “getting high doses of chemotherapy, which had many-side-effects” and decided that “if she got through the aggressive treatment, she would do something to improve therapies.” Professor Kavallaris is Head of the Tumour Biology and Targeting Program at the Children’s Cancer Institute and is Director of the Australian Centre for NanoMedicine at UNSW.

The Society warmly congratulates Maria Kavallaris on this recognition of her outstanding, internationally-recognised, 35-year research career.


New editions of the RSNSW Bulletin and Journal now available - March 2020

Cover of RSNSW Bulletin 440 March 2020 Cover of RSNSW Journal 152-2 December 2019 The Society is pleased to announce that the March 2020 edition of the Bulletin (Issue 440) and the December 2019 edition of the RSNSW Journal and Proceedings (Vol. 152-2) are now available on the website and are available for downloading. A table of contents of this issue of the Journal is also available, enabling access to individual articles.

The December 2019 edition of the Journal and Proceedings contains six papers (three submitted, two commissioned, and one reprint), together with five PhD thesis abstracts and an obituary for the historian Ann Moyal FRSN who passed away in 2019. In additiion,

The Journal also lists the events held by the Society and its Southern Highlands and Hunter branches during 2019, the Award Winners for 2019, and the new Fellows of the Society (for 2018) that were gazetted by the NSW Government on 31 January 2019.  



Gazettal of 2019 Royal Society of NSW Fellows and Distinguished Fellows

Coat of Arms of New South WalesThe list of Fellows and Distinguished Fellows, elected by the Royal Society of NSW during 2019, was gazetted by the New South Wales Government on 26 February 2020.  


2018 Liversidge Lecture Report

Collage of images from the RSNSW Liversidge LectureThe 2018 Liversidge Lecture of the Royal Society of NSW was delivered at UNSW Sydney on the evening of 20 February 20120 by Scientia Professor Martina Stenzel FAA of the UNSW School of Chemistry.

A report on the lecture delivered by Professor Stezel is now available. 


Hunter Branch News: February/March 2020

Image of Newcastle, NSW The Hunter Branch has just announced its second event for the year, a lecture by Professor Tony Capon of Monash University titled “Planetary Health: Safeguarding Health in the Anthropocence Epoch”, to be held at Newcastle City Hall on 25 March. 

Also, a report on the Branch’s first meeting of the year (31 January) that included a presentation  by Professor Ryan Loxton (Curtin University), titled “Mathematics in Industry: Optimisation in Action”, has just been published.


Vale Dr Brian Spies

RSNSW Logo The Royal Society of NSW records with great regret the passing of one of its valued Fellows, Dr Brian Spies FRSN FTSE.

Dr Spies worked in research and management in the resource and environmental sectors in Australia and the USA, with positions in industry, academia and government.  His roles in Australia included Chief Research Scientist at CSIRO, Director of Physics at ANSTO. and Science Manager at the Sydney Catchment Authority.  Dr Spies was a Fellow of both the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering and the Royal Society of NSW, and in 2003 was awarded the Australian Centenary Medal for his services to geoscience.


The Bushfire Emergency and Climate Change: a Statement from the President of the Royal Society of NSW

Royal Society of NSW All of us in the Royal Society of New South Wales have been distressed and saddened by the devastating bushfires that have darkened our skies, our landscape, and our spirits over the summer. Some of our Members and Fellows have suffered personal loss of irreplaceable property. Some have been personally involved in firefighting while others have donated generously to the organisations staffing the front lines. All of us are devastated by the scale of the ecological disaster. On behalf of the Royal Society, I want to express heartfelt sympathy with those who have suffered loss, and our admiration and gratitude for all those who have been helping in the efforts to control the fires and their aftermath.

In the community, there is a natural desire to understand the causes, learn the necessary lessons, and take action. To what extent are the fires the results of policies and practices surrounding controlled burning? To what extent can global warming be held responsible for the severity of this and future fire seasons? How can our nation best respond to the resulting environmental, social, and economic challenges that will face us in the future?

The Royal Society is committed to a dispassionate evidence-based understanding of all these issues. In the case of bushfire management, we must listen to fire chiefs and fire research scientists. We must accept the unequivocal conclusions of the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering that the science is in: the climate is changing, in a way that has been predicted by Australian and International organisations for many years; and human activities since the beginning of the industrial revolution are in significant part responsible.

For those who wish to gain a better understanding of the science, I can recommend the statements on climate change from the Academy of Science and the Academy of Technology and Engineering . I also refer you to the more extended (30 page) Academy of Science booklet and informative YouTube videos from the Academy.

We must be prepared to do more to limit further changes, and to adapt to the many challenges that are already apparent. With your support the Royal Society can play an important role in finding solutions.

Ian H Sloan
President, Royal Society of NSW
29 January 2020


Australia Day Honours 2020

Royal Society of NSW The Society is pleased to note the award in the 2020 Australia Day Honours List of a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) to our Patron, The Honourable Margaret Beazley, Governor of New South Wales. Her Excellency received the award for eminent service to the people of New South Wales, particularly through leadership roles in the judiciary, and as a mentor of young women lawyers.

The Society is also pleased to acknowledge the award of an Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) to Mr Robyn Williams for distinguished service to science as a journalist, radio presenter and author, and to education.


Royal Society Events

The Royal Society of NSW organizes events in Sydney and in its Branches throughout the year. 

In Sydney, these include Ordinary General Meetings (OGMs) held normally at 6.00 for 6.30 pm on the first Wednesday of the month (there is no meeting in January), in the Gallery Room at the State Library of NSW. At the OGMs, society business is conducted, new Fellows and Members are inducted, and reports from Council are given.  This is followed by a public lecture presented by an eminent expert and an optional dinner.  Drinks are served before the meeting.  There is a small charge to attend the meeting and lecture, and to cover refreshments.  The dinner is a separate charge, and must be booked in advance.  All OGMs are open to members of the public.

Since April 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, face-to-face meetings have been replaced by virtual meetings, conducted as Zoom webinars, allowing the events program to continue uninterrupted.  It is hoped that face-to-face meetings can be resumed in 2022. 

Other events are held in collaboration with other groups, including:

  • The Four Societies lecture — with the Australian Institute of Energy, the Nuclear Panel of Engineers Australia (Sydney Division), and the Australian Nuclear Association
  • The Forum — the Australian Academy of Science, with the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia
  • The Dirac lecture — with UNSW Sydney and the Australian Institute of Physics
  • The Liversidge Medal lecture — with the Royal Australian Chemical Institute

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