Governor presents 2019 Society Awards

2019 RSNSW Award winners at the Government House Presentation Ceremony - August 2020The Society was delighted that its Patron, Her Excellency The Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of NSW, was able to present the Society’s 2019 Awards at a special ceremony in the Ballroom at Government House on Thursday, 13 August. The awards were unable to be presented at this year’s Annual Dinner, which had been held virtually, because of the current pandemic.

The ceremony was necessarily conducted under unusual conditions. The guests were limited in number and were seated according to the four square metre rule. The Governor passed the medals and certificates to the recipients across a suitably-sized table.

In her remarks, The Governor spoke appreciatively of the Society’s role in the intellectual life of New South Wales. She said how pleased she was to be able to present the awards at this time as it was the first major presentation event held at Government House since March because of the pandemic.

As well as the 2019 Awards, The Governor presented Scientia Professor George Paxinos AO DistFRSN with his Distinguished Fellowship of the Society. The Society expresses its warmest congratulations to all recipients.

Following the ceremony, The Society was treated to a socially-distanced morning tea on the terrace taking full advantage of the glorious winter sunshine and the recently restored gardens. We are very grateful to Her Excellency for making this special occasion possible under such difficult circumstances.


GH Awards Presentation 4 images reduced



Award winners with the Her Excellency, The Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of NSW.  Clockwise, from the upper left, they are: Professor Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh, Honorary Professor Evelleen Richards, Emeritus Professor Brynn Hibbert, and Scientia Professor George Paxinos AO DistFRSN.




National Science Week 2020 Events from RSNSW

National Science Week Events 2020National Science Week 2020 is now upon us (15-23 August 2020) and the Royal Society of NSW is pleased to offer two presentations this year. 

They are:


Please join us live for these two events, presented as a Zoom webinars, by accessing the links above, or enjoy them later on our YouTube channel



Senior Secondary Pathways Review chaired by Society Fellow, Peter Shergold

Professor Peter Shergold AC FRSN FASSA FAICDThe Report of the Review of Senior Secondary Pathways, chaired by Society Fellow and Chancellor of Western Sydney University, Professor Peter Shergold AC FRSN FASSA FAICD, was released by the Australian Government in late July 2020. The report, titled Looking to the Future, argues that transition pathways presented to young adults are too often narrowly framed and as a consequence limit choice.  The report notes that the dominance of the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) privileges academic capability over the value of vocation education and training, with the emphasis on scholastic achievement paying "too little regard to the other skills and attributes required for successful adulthood”.

Instead, the report makes the case that high school students should focus on building a learner profile that reflects the skills (including leadership, prblem-soling and collaboration) and knowledge gained during the course of their education rather than focusing on how to boost their ATAR.  As conceived, the learner profile should provide a “digital education passport” which students could continue to build during adulthood by adding new qualifications and experience.

To read further about the the work of the Review, please access the Report on the Pathways Review website and see also an article in the Sydney Morning Herald written at the time of the release of the Report in July 2020.


Postponement: The Clancy Collection Exhibition of Early Maps

An early map of SydneyThe Clancy Collection Exhibition of Early Maps, “Charting a Course: a 500-year story of discovery and the development of Sydney”, to be presented by Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy AM FRSN at the Manly Art Gallery and Museum on Wednesday, 19 August (4.00pm), has been postponed due to uncertainties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic

The exhibition has been rescheduled for Wednesday, 14 October 2020, 4.00-5.30pm at the Manly Musuem and Art Gallery and will proceed on that date if circumstances permit.

Please see the event notice for further information and note that there is a limit of 20 attendees due to COVID-19 related entry restrictions. Should interest in this event exceed the available 20 places, consideration will given to providing an alternative opportunity to view the exhibition in the company of Professor Clancy.

Please register you interest by writing to the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


New editions of the Society's Journal and Bulletin: August 2020

Covers of the Journal vol. 153-1 and Bulletin vol. 443 The Society is pleased to advise that the latest issues of the Journal and Proceedings vol. 153-1 and the Bulletin vol. 443 have just been published and are now available on the website. 

The principal content of this issue of the Journal is the 2019 RSNSW and Four Academies Forum: Making SPACE for Australia (including links to YouTube presentations), with 17 contributions from experts in the field. This is particularly relevant after the recent splash-down (first since 1975) of the private SpaceX vehicle returning NASA astronauts from the International Space Station.

This issue also includes the text of Distinguished Fellow Brian Schmidt's address at the 2020 Annual Dinner, a timely piece by Graham Bell FRSN on a home test of smell acuity to alert for possible COVID-19 infection, FRSN  David Hush's Partita for Solo Violin (with links to YouTube to hear it performed), an invited paper by Steve Pyne, doyen of writers of the history of wildfires around the world, on last summer's fires and what they mean for the future, and an obituary by Len Fisher FRSN on the late Lord May of Oxford OM AC Kt FRS DistFRSN CorrFAA FTSE HonFAIB.


Society Fellow awarded the London Royal Society Royal Medal

Emeritus Professor Herbert Huppert FRS FRSN The Royal Society of NSW (RSNSW) is delighted to learn of the announcement in London by the Royal Society that one of its Fellows, Emeritus Professor Herbert Huppert FRS FRSN, has just been awarded the 2020 Royal Medal for Physical Sciences. The Royal Medals are awarded on behalf of the Queen each year, and have been issued annually since 1825. The RSNSW Council extends its warmest congratulations to Professor Huppert on this recognition of his outstanding career achievements.

The citation for Professor Huppert reads: “ He has been at the forefront of research in fluid mechanics. As an applied mathematician he has consistently developed highly original analysis of key natural and industrial processes. Further to his research, he has chaired policy work on how science can help defend against terrorism, and Carbon Capture and Storage in Europe.”

Professor Huppert is an Australian-born geophysicist who lives in the United Kingdom. He has been the Professor of Theoretical Geophysics and Foundation Director, Institute of Theoretical Geophysics, at the University of Cambridge, since 1989 and a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, since 1970. He has published widely using fluid-mechanical principles in applications to the Earth sciences: in meteorology, oceanography and geology. In 1987, he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) and was awarded the Society’s Bakerian Medal in 2011. He was awarded the Murchison Medal of the Geological Society of London in 2007 and is the only non-American recipient of a prize from the United States National Academy of Sciences, being awarded the Arthur L. Day Prize and Lectureship for contributions to the Earth sciences in 2005. Professor Huppert is also a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, the American Physical Society and the Academia Europaea. He is currently an Emeritus Professor at Cambridge and holds visiting professorial appointments at Bristol University and UNSW Sydney.


July 2020 Events now on YouTube

Elizabeth Ann Macgregor and Pia Ednie-BownEvents held online during July 2020 by the Royal Society of NSW are now available on our YouTube channel.  These are the lecture presented at the1284th Ordinary General Meeting by Ms Elizabeth Ann McGregor OBE FRSN (Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art) on the evening of 8 July 2020, and the lecture presented at the meeting of the Hunter Branch on 29 July by Professor Pia Ednie-Brown.  

Ms Macgregor spoke on “Why Art Matters in Times of Crisis”, while Professor Ednie-Brown addressed Architecture and the Cultivation of Vitality.

All online events conducted recently by the Society are available on YouTube and are accessible from the Presentation and Forum pages of the Society’s website.


Recent Society Events now on YouTube: July 2020

Brian Schmidt and Elizabeth Ann Macgregor: speakers at the Annual Dinner 2020 and the 1284th OGMRecent events held online by the the Royal Society of NSW are now available on our YouTube channel.  These are the 2020 Annual Dinner and Distinguished Fellow's Lecture, presented by Professor Brian Schmidt AC FRS DistFRSN FAA  (Vice-Chancellor of ANU) on the evening of 27 July 2020, and the Open Lecture presented at the 1284th Ordinary General Meeting by Ms Elizabeth Ann McGregor OBE FRSN (Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art) on the evening of 8 July 2020. 

Professor Schmidt spoke on “Evidence and Education in a Post-Truth, Post-COVID World” while Ms Macgregor addressed the question “Why Art Matters in Times of Crisis”.

All online events conducted recently by the Society are available on YouTube and are accessible from the Presentation and Forum pages of the Society’s website.


New edition of the Society's Journal and Proceedings: June 2020

RSNSW Journal 152- 3 Cover Page The Society is pleased to advise that the latest issue of the Journal and Proceedings vol. 152-3 has just been published. This is a special issue from the 2019 Biennial Symposium of the Australian and New Zealand Associations of von Humboldt Fellows and is published online only on this website.


Lord Robert May: ABC Science Show, 13 June 2020

ABC Science Show Lord May 13 June 2020

The ABC Science Show, broadcast on ABC Radio National at noon on Saturday, 13 June 2020, was devoted to the life and achievements of Lord Robert May of Oxford, OM AC Kt FRS DistFRSN FAA FTSE HonFAIB, who died at the age of 84 on 28 April 2020. The program is now available for download from the Science Show website.

Lord May, a Distinguished Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW, was one of Australia’s most eminent scientists, and during his career served as Chief Scientific Advisor to the United Kingdom Government and as President of the Royal Society. 


Queen's Birthday Honours 2020

Royal Society of NSW The Society is pleased to note the awards listed in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours List to Society Fellows: a Companion of the Order to Australia (AC) to Ms Belinda Hutchinson AC FRSN; a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) to Professor Stephen Garton AM FRSN FAHA FASSA; and a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) to Emeritus Professor Roy MacLeod OAM FRSN FAHA FASSA FRHistS FSA.

Ms Hutchinson, who is the Chancellor of the University of Sydney, received her award for eminent service to business, to tertiary education and scientific research, and through philanthropic endeavours to address social disadvantage.  Professor Garton, who is the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney, received his award for significant service to tertiary education administration, and to history. Professor MacLeod, who is an Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Sydney, received his award for service to education, particularly to history.


Professors Froyland, Joliffe and Paulsen, RSN Fellows, elected as Australian Academy of Science Fellows

RSNSW Seal The Royal Society of NSW is delighted to learn of the recognition of three of its Fellows, Professor Gary Froyland FRSN FAA, Professor Katrina Joliffe FRSN FAA, and Distinguished Professor Ian Paulsen FAA FRSN,  being elected as Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science in May 2020.   As Fellows of the Australian Acacdemy of Science, they are among Australia’s most distinguished scientists, elected by their peers for ground-breaking research.

Professor Katrina JoliffeThe Academy citation for Payne-Scott Professor Joliffe, of the School of Chemistry at the University of Sydney, refers to her “a leader in the fields of supramolecular and organic chemistry [making] world-leading contributions to organic synthesis, anion recognition and molecular self-assembly. Her international reputation is a result of her expertise in the design and synthesis of complex molecular architectures, which she uses to generate new molecular structures. Jolliffe’s transformative achievements include the development of selective receptors for pyrophosphate and sulfate ions, and the development of new methods that enable the synthesis of macrocyclic peptides. She has been awarded the Beckwith, Biota, Birch and H.G. Smith medals of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute. ”

Professor Gary FroylandThe Academy citation for Professor Froyland, of the School of the School of Mathematics and Statistics at UNSW Sydney, recognises that he “has significantly influenced the fields of dynamical systems and ergodic theory and has made major contributions to discrete optimisation. He is a world authority on the application of transfer operator methods to geophysical fluid flow, and his imaginative program of mathematics has reshaped scientific views on how to characterise complex fluid flow. Froyland has led multidisciplinary teams to solve pressing scientific problems in physical oceanography and atmospheric science, and to make port operations more efficient. His research on open-pit mine optimisation has had a profound impact on the scheduling of base metal mines internationally and will make cancer radiation therapy safer. ”

Professor Gary FroylandThe Academy citation for Distinguished Professor Paulsen, of the Department of Molecular Sciences at Macquarie University, states that he “is a world leader in microbiology and a pioneer in microbial genomics. His work has focused on informatic followed by experimental characterisation of bacterial transport systems for nutrients and toxic compounds. He has discovered several novel classes of multidrug efflux pumps that can make bacteria resistant to multiple drugs by pumping them out of the cell. Paulsen’s work has revealed that these pumps have natural roles in the cell and have been opportunistically co-opted by hospital pathogens as a resistance mechanism against antibiotics. His global genome-based analyses have revealed fundamental strategic differences in transporters between single and multicellular lifeforms.”

The Council of the Royal Society of NSW extends its warmest congratulations to Professors Joliffe, Froyland and Paulsen on this recognition of their outstanding scientific achievements.


Recordings of recent Society events now on YouTube

RSNSW SealRecent events held online by the the Royal Society of NSW are now available on our YouTube channel.  For May 2020, these are the lecture titled “COVID-19 and confusion: the story of a nasty but nice viral receptor” presented at the Society’s Hunter Branch by Emeritus Professor Eugenie Lumbers AM DistFRSN FAA, and the inaugural [email protected] event, “Ten: the Mapping of Colonial Australia”, delivered by Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy AM FRSN, and presented by Her Excellency, The Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of New South Wales and the Royal Society of NSW.

All online events conducted recently by the Society are available on YouTube and are accessible from the Presentation and Forum pages of the Society’s website.


Release of the YouTube recording of [email protected]: May 2020

RSNSW Seal The Royal Society of NSW is delighted to announce the release on its YouTube channel of the recording of the inaugural [email protected] presentation, conducted by webinar on the evening of Thursday, 21 May 2020. [email protected] is an initiative of Her Excellency, The Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of New South Wales, to open Government House to a series of public events based on important and/or influential ideas. In this, the Royal Society of NSW and other organisations were invited to devise a series of lectures to be delivered under the banner of [email protected]

The Royal Society was delighted to have been selected to deliver this first [email protected] event, titled “Ten: the Mapping of Colonial Australia” and presented by Professor Robert Clancy AM FRSN, an Emeritus Professor in Immunology from the University of Newcastle, Australia, a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW, and an internationally recognised histocartographer.

More information about [email protected], the subject of the presentation, and the speaker are available on the Society's website.


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:

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 the latter half of 2021. 

The first OGM of  the year, held in February, has speakers drawn from the winners of the Royal Society Scholarships from the previous year, while the December OGM hears from the winner of the Jak Kelly award, before an informal Christmas party.  The April or May event is our black-tie Annual Dinner and Distinguished Fellow lecture.

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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