Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events
APR
30

Governor's Reception for Lord May of Oxford

The Society was honoured by the decision of our Patron, Professor Marie Bashir, Governor of NSW, to hold a reception at Government House, Sydney for the formal investiture of Lord May of Oxford, a distinguished Australian scientist now residing in the UK, as Fellow of the Society. This took place in the late afternoon of Friday 29 April 2011 following Lord May's delivery of the Dirac Lecture at the University of NSW that morning. The presence at the event of several leaders of the scientific community in NSW was testament to the value that is placed on excellence and achievement in science, and on the importance of the Society's Fellows.

Footage of the event can be found here: Dirac Lecture 2011 - Beauty and truth: their intersection in mathematics and science
Lord and Lady May (centre) with Her Excellency the Governor and the President following Lord May's investiture as Fellow of the Society at Government House Sydney.
APR
07

the Royal Society of NSW Forum 2011

"Belief and science: the belief/knowledge dilemma"

Barry Jones and David Malouf

Wednesday 6 April 2011 at 6 pm

The Darlington Centre, University of Sydney

Barry Jones
Have scientists become polarised into believers and non-believers? Barry Jones posed this question to David Malouf and members of the Society at the 1190th General Meeting​ on Wednesday, 6 April 2011. Reflecting upon this, Barry referred to the scientific paradigm that has emerged over the last several hundred years: scientists gather information in order to try to make sense of observed phenomena using rational analysis. Science has evolved to become not so much a matter of belief but rather of acceptance of the most sensible explanation based on the accumulation of evidence. Nonetheless, when major paradigm shifts in scientific thinking take place, there are often eminent experts who disagree and refuse to accept the new theory. This slows down the acceptance of a new paradigm but ultimately in most cases rational thought prevails.
David Malouf

David Malouf pointed out that non-scientists have to rely on what they are told in order to evaluate scientific theories. He pointed out the significant shift since the 18th century when early scientists put their theories to learned academies (such as the Royal Society, London) for expert examination and they determined what was accepted as scientific knowledge and what was rejected. Today, however, with the highly complex issues that society faces there are significant public policy implications that need to be resolved based on expert advice. But what do we do when the experts disagree? We are largely dependent on the media to inform us. This is further complicated because important issues are usually not just scientific in their nature but often have economic and social imperatives that commercial groups, governments and other interests seek to manipulate. Barry commented that the sheer complexity of science has forced scientists to increasing specialisation. Furthermore, scientists are heavily reliant on research grants from government and private enterprise and this has discouraged them from entering into controversies. This is quite different to the era of only 50 or 70 years ago when renowned scientists were not afraid to comment outside their area of specific expertise.

In their final comments, Barry emphasised that the task of a scientist is to analyse inconceivably complex data and make sense of it but the public policy imperatives are driven by media outcomes and necessarily requires the debate to be simplistic. David is fascinated by the rate of change of technology and almost unexpectedly has come to the realisation that the more we know about the complexities of nature, of the human body, the weather and so on, it simply exposes ever more questions. Science has been enormously successful and exciting in bringing an understanding in a world that we know so little about.
FEB
19

Annual Dinner and Awards 2011

The Society held its Annual Dinner for 2011 at St Paul's College, University of Sydney on Friday 18 February 2011. Our guest-of-honour was the Governor of NSW, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO, one of our two Patrons and a long-standing supporter of the Society. We were also pleased to have three Deans of Science from universities in Sydney present. In her Occasional Address Her Excellency made reference to the antecedents of the Society and the work of one of her predecessors, Governor Lachlan Macquarie, in creating a climate in which Societies such as ours might germinate. We appreciate her support and that of the unbroken line of her predecessors.
The Governor, Marie Bashir, presents Fellowship to Professor Michelle Simmons.
The Governor, Marie Bashir, presents Fellowship to Emeritus Scientia Professor Eugenie Lumbers.
The Governor, Marie Bashir, congratulates Dr Ken Campbell on his award of the Clarke Medal.​
The Governor, Marie Bashir, presents Assoc. Prof. Angela Moles with the Edgeworth David Medal.​
The Governor, Marie Bashir, presents Prof. Rick Shine with the Walter Burfitt Prize.​
The Governor, Marie Bashir, presents Dr Julian King with the joint AIP/Royal Society of NSW Studentship Award.​
The Governor, Marie Bashir, with Society President John Hardie after he presented her with a token of the Society's appreciation.​
Vice President, Heinrich Hora, gives the vote of thanks.​
FEB
19

Five New Fellows Honoured

(Note: A change to the Rules of the Society in December 2013 changed Fellowships to Distinguished Fellowships.)

At the Liversidge Research Lecture for 2010 held on 26 November, the President announced that the Society had created five new Fellows. The formal presentation ceremony occurred on 18 February 2011 at the Society's Annual Dinner in Sydney. The Society's new Fellows will continue their work to promote the importance of scientific endeavour in Australia.

The Society's Fellows for 2010 are:
Professor Lord May of Oxford, OM AC Kt FRS FAA FRSN;
Professor Elizabeth Blackburn AC FRS FRSN;
Professor Kurt Lambeck AO FRS FAA FRSN;
Emeritus Scientia Professor Eugenie Lumbers FAA FRSN and
Professor Michelle Simmons FAA FRSN.

For their citations see the Distinguished Fellows page.

MAR
30

Inaugural Fellows Honoured at Admiralty House

On Monday 29 March 2010 Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia and Chief Patron of the Society, presented the Society's Inaugural Fellows with their certificates. This splendid occasion, held in the delightful surrounds of Admiralty House in Sydney in front of an invited audience of over 50 distinguished guests of the Society, honoured the achievements of these seven great scientists:

Professor Michael Archer AM FAA
Professor Gavin Brown AO FAA CorrFRSE
Professor Robert Clark FAA
Professor David Craig AO FRS FAA
Professor Jak Kelly DSc FInstP (London) FAIP
Professor Richard Stanton AO FAA
Professor Bruce Warren DSc FAIM FRCPA FRCPath


For their citations see the Distinguished Fellows page.

Admiralty House​
MAR
13

Annual Dinner and Awards 2010

The Society's Annual Dinner was held on Friday 12 March 2010 at the Forum Restaurant, Darlington Centre, Sydney University. We were fortunate in having the NSW Chief Scientist and Scientific Engineer, Professor Mary O'Kane, as Guest-of-Honour to present the Society's Awards for 2009 and give an Occasional Address to the nearly 70 members and guests at the dinner. Three Awards were presented:

The James Cook Medal was awarded to Dr Michael Goldsworthy FAIP, CEO of Silex Systems, for his discovery, development and commercialisation of the world's best isotope separation techniques. Dr Goldsworthy's work is highly significant for the energy sector in that his techniques have increased isotope enrichment efficiency by a factor of 60 times over the earlier centrifuge techniques. He is now regarded as one of the leading authorities on both nuclear power and solar energy in Australia. The citation was read by Emeritus Professor Heinrich Hora.

The Clarke Medal for 2009 was awarded to Dr Winston Ponder of the Australian Museum for his lifetime's work on molluscs. Dr Ponder's work has focussed on phylogenetic relationships and taxonomy, and his detailed research, published in over 200 papers in refereed journals, has been essential in recognising Australia's biodiversity. The citation was read by Julie Haeusler.

The Edgeworth David Medal for 2009 (for a scientist under the age of 35) was awarded to Associate Professor Nagarajan Valanoor of the School of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of NSW. Professor Valanoor works on nanoscale functional materials and thin-film polar oxide structures. He has put Australia on the world map in leading-edge research in these areas. He has published over 60 peer-reviewed papers internationally which have been cited over 2,400 times, a remarkable achievement for a relatively young researcher. The citation was read by Associate Professor Bill Sewell.

For more information see Bulletin 333 (PDF file).

MAR
14

Annual Dinner and Awards 2009

His Honour Justice James Allsop, President of the NSW Court of Appeal

The Society held a very successful Annual Dinner at the Forum Restaurant, Darlington Centre at the University of Sydney on 13 March. The Guest-of-Honour was His Honour Justice James Allsop, President of the NSW Court of Appeal who replaced our Chief Patron, the Governor-General at relatively short notice. The Society thanks His Honour for his attendance and for his very insightful Occasional Address, which touched on the relationship between the Society and the legal profession.

The other highlight of the evening was the presentation of our Awards for 2008. His Honour presented the Clarke Medal (this year it was for botany) to Professor Bradley Potts from the University of Tasmania and the Edgeworth David Medal for a young scientist to Dr Adam Micolich of the University of NSW. Associate Profesor Bill Sewell read the citations which were followed by very generous remarks by the recipients in accepting the Awards.

His Honour Justice James Allsop, the President John Hardie and Professor Bradley Potts
His Honour Justice James Allsop, the President John Hardie and Dr Adam Micolich

For further details see the March 2009 Bulletin No. 323.

DEC
31

History Week 2008

Science House, 157 Gloucester Street

The Royal Society of New South Wales presents "Science then and now - What 100 years have done for Science"

The Royal Society returns to Science House for History Week. Come and hear the lecture, come and see this magnificent building in The Rocks.

Saturday 6 September, 2-4 pm, Science House, 157 Gloucester Street (corner of Essex and Gloucester Sts) in the city. This is a free event and bookings are not essential.

The Royal Society of NSW has been invited to participate in History Week and where better to stage an event than the heritage-listed Science House in the heritage-listed Rocks. Our former president, Professor Jak Kelly will present "Science then and now - what 100 years have done for science". Jak will both act and dress for the role when he delivers an important scientific paper exactly as it was delivered to a meeting of the Royal Society of NSW around the turn of the 20th Century. An equally eminent scientist will demonstrate the advances since that time when delivering an equivalent address on the topic. Authentic technology and equipment of the period with copies of the original paper will help to transport the audience back to those heady days when science was considered of paramount importance.

Robyn Stutchbury addresses the Blue Mountains Historical Society;
"Unearthing the Buried Treasures of the Royal Society of NSW"

Robyn Stutchbury has been invited to address the Blue Mountains Historical Society. Her address, "Unearthing the buried treasures of the Royal Society of NSW" will focus on the work we have been doing on the Society's collection as a result of two Community Heritage Grants (CHG) from the National Library of Australia. She will report on the problems of maintaining our collection and the steps we are taking to overcome these.

The assessments reported by the two professional historians engaged through the CHG funding indicate that we are the custodians of a highly significant collection both culturally and historically. We are now faced with the problems of how to carefully conserve the collection and how to make it available to researchers and the public alike.

Blue Mountains Society headquarters, "Hobby's Reach" 99 Blaxland Road, Wentworth Falls. Saturday 6 September, 10.30 - 12 noon

Global Warming & The Cosmos

Dr Graeme Pearman (left) with Dr Eigil Friis-Christensen at the Global Warming Symposium.

The Royal Society of NSW arranged for two of the world's leading climate scientists to give a presentation on whether climate change is man-made, natural or both. The presentation was made to an enthusiastic audience of some 250 people, followed by a lively Q&A session. The presenters were: Dr Graeme Pearman, former head of the CSIRO Atmospheric Division and adviser to Al Gore and to the Garnaut Climate Change Review and Dr Eigil Friis-Christensen, director of the National Space Institute (NSI) (previously the Danish National Space Centre) at the Technical University of Denmark.

Both speakers agreed that much more research is needed into the ways in which solar variation affects climate, and to investigate whether there is a link between GCRs and cloud formation which is significant in the context of climate change.

The Royal Society of NSW wishes to thank the two speakers for presenting their papers. They also wish to thank Dick Whitaker for chairing the meeting, and Frensham School for hosting the event.

Date: Saturday 5 April 2008
Time: 1.30 pm for 2.00 pm
Venue: Clubbe Hall, Frensham, Cnr of Range Rd and Waverley Pde Mittagong

Annual Dinner

The Society held a very successful Annual Dinner at the Forum Restaurant, Darlington Centre, University of Sydney on Friday 14 March 2008.

The guest of honour was Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO, Governor of NSW, who presented our Awards for 2007. She also addressed those attending and spoke about the achievements of the Society and its place in the modern world and how pleased she was to be our Patron.

Her Excellency with Clarke Medal recipient Professor Suzanne O'Reilly
A light-hearted moment during the presentation of the Edgeworth David Medal to Dr Stuart Wyithe (second from left) with the Governor, the President and the reader of the citations, Professor Pete Williams
Her Excellency awards the Walter Burfitt Prize to Professor Matthew Colless
Professor Gavin Brown, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney and winner of the Society's Medal for 2007, with Her Excellency
A Vote of Thanks to Her Excellency was offered by A/Professor Bill Sewell
Dr David Branagan with Office Manager Irene Kelly
The President, Mr John Hardie (left) with the Governor and Award recipients: (l-r) Professor Gavin Brown, Dr Stuart Wyithe, Professor Suzanne O'Reilly, HE Professor Marie Bashir, Professor Matthew Colless
DEC
31

News 2007

The Cultural Heritage Grant Project is progressing very well. See the Cultural Heritage Grant Project Page for details.

DEC
31

NSW Government Grant

February 2006: On the 14th November last year, following representations to the NSW Government Minister for Science, Mr. Frank Sartor, Prof Peter Williams and Karina Kelly met with the Director General of the NSW Ministry for Science and Medical Research, Michael Reid and his Executive Director, Kerry Doyle. Both showed great interest in our Society, its distinguished history and its importance to New South Wales. As a result of this meeting, we are delighted to be able to inform Members that, the Ministry has agreed to help support the publication of our Journal with a $10,000 grant each year for the next three years. We are already in receipt of the grant funds for the first year and are very hopeful that this will help improve our Journal and further invigorate the Society.
SEP
30

Soirée at the Nicholson Museum (2006)

Thursday 28 September 2006, 4.30 - 8.30pm

Flushed with success, the Council of the Royal Society decided it was time for a bit of a heels-up - or rather heads-down - to look at treasured items from our wonderful collection. The occasion? A soirée at the Nicholson Museum in The University of Sydney to celebrate the achievements of the previous twelve months.

In that time, the Council managed to win two grants. The first, a State Government grant of $30,000 to be used for the publication of the journal over the next three years, was the work of past president Karina Kelly and her team. The second was $5,500 through one of the Federal Government's Community Heritage Grants organized by the National Library in Canberra.

It was through this grant that our consultant historians, Dr David Branagan and Dr Peter Tyler, assessed the Society's collection of books, journals, maps, drawings, painting, photographs, lantern-slides and medals to be highly significant both historically and scientifically. Selected items were displayed in the facilities offered by the Nicholson Museum. Staff and guests donned cotton gloves to leaf through some of the precious books, which included works by the American archaeologist and naturalist Charles C. Abbott, and Opuscula, one of the most significant books in the Society's collection, written in Latin by Georg Bauer, better known by his Latin name, Georgius Agricola (1494-1555). He is considered the founder of geology as a discipline. Another book, Cyrillus in Johannem et Leviticum una cum thesauro eiusdem, was published in 1508. It is the only one held in Australia. There was also the first volume of Curtis' Botanical Magazine, beautifully illustrated by the artist Sydenham S. Edwards and published 1787. The Society holds the complete set (Volumes 1-14) and many other volumes of the Botanical Magazine by various other publishers.

Also on display were Lawrence Hargrave's aeronautical and other papers, together with some of the drawings and lantern-slides of his first flying machine, and a very rare edition of J.D. Dana's Geology, written when he accompanied W.B. Clarke around the Sydney Basin. Hand-written letters from Society member Charles Darwin and Louis Pasteur were a great attraction. Many of the medals on display were from Clarke's collection. These are kept in the care of the Mitchell Library together with some 20 boxes of books and other items belonging to the Royal Society. These are to be the target of our next round of assessment and listing.

Undeniably the Society is the custodian of a remarkably important collection. It is imperative that we take every step to preserve it and to make it available to all.

Guests at the soirée included the university's Vice Chancellor, Professor Gavin Brown and his wife, Diane, the former Vice Chancellor of Macquarie University, Professor Di Yerbury, acclaimed photographer-astronomer, Professor David Malin, Scientia Professor Eugenie Lumbers from the University of New South Wales, the ABC's Robyn Science Williams and many others.

The soirée was not without its formalities. President, Professor Jak Kelly set the scene, explaining the grounds for the celebration and thanking Professor Brown for so generously arranging premises for the Royal Society. He also thanked Professor Di Yerbury for her help in housing the Society and its collection at Macquarie University for some years. Councillor John Hardie spoke about the work that had been done on the collection through the funding, and outlined some of the recommendations from Peter Tyler's report. These included the urgent need to house the collection suitably so that it could be properly conserved and made available to researchers and the public alike. He also suggested that the Society should initiate a long-term project to "return Science House to Science". He reminded guests that Science House won the first Sulman Medal for Architecture for its architects, Peddle, Thorpe and Walker, in 1932.

Society member and former president, David Branagan, who was also one of the assessors, described some of the "treasures" he had examined and the insight they give to the development of our intellectual and scientific history from Colonial times. Professor Gavin Brown thanked the Royal Society for inviting him and his wife and congratulated the Society on its achievements in recent years.

It was after the formalities that guests were free to peruse the displays to the sounds of restful chamber music from the trio, Sound of Melody, adding to the already splendid atmosphere of the museum itself. David Branagan and members of the Council's grant committee were on hand to assist with enquiries and to point out items of special interest.

The evening finished on a high note when Society received an unexpected accolade from the Senior Curator of the Nicholson Museum, Michael Turner, who said that he had really enjoyed having so erudite and enthusiastic a group of people at the museum.

Robyn Stutchbury

NOV
30

RSNSW awarded Federal Community Heritage Grant

November 2005: The Royal Society of NSW has been awarded a $6,050 Federal Community Heritage Grant to fund a Significance and Preservation Survey. The grant was announced by the Federal Minister for the Arts and Sport, Senator the Hon. Rod Kemp, at the National Library of Australia, Canberra. A total of $377,865 was distributed to 76 groups from around Australia to assist in the identification and preservation of community-owned but nationally significant heritage collections. In addition, Mr John Hardie, a Vice-President of the Society, attended a three-day intensive preservation and collection management workshop held at the National Library of Australia, the National Archives, the National Museum of Australia and the National Film and Sound Archives in Canberra. 

Latest news on this project can be found on the Cultural Heritage Grant Project Page.

APR
30

Society web site now on a virtual server

April 2005: The society has moved our web site onto a 'virtual' server in preparation for implementing a web-based library system. The plan is that eventually a catalogue of our extensive collection will be accessible to members and researchers. The library system that we will be using is Koha.

APR
30

Substantial addition to our web site

April 2005: Dr P.R. (Dick) Evans has scanned and converted to HTML 30 years of abstracts from 1969 to 1999. In addition to the abstracts there are 30 full-text papers reproduced - photographs and diagrams included. The latter are those that Dr Evans considers important papers. All of this is available on our web site under Publications.
DEC
31

Past President honoured by new mineral name

Prof. P.A. Williams​
Professor Peter Williams, a recent past President of the Royal Society of New South Wales (elected in 2001) has been extended a remarkable and rare honour. A new mineral has been named after him to honour his contribution to mineral research around the world. Called, Petewilliamsite, the dark brown/red/violet mineral was found in Germany and contains nickel and cobalt. Only 50 minerals are found around the world each year and most of these are given chemical, geographical or geological names. He says he's "tickled pink".
DEC
31

Life Membership

At a recent Meeting, Council unanimously bestowed Life Membership upon Mrs Maren Kryskov Tryst in recognition of her many years of dedicated service and contribution to the Society both as Honorary Secretary Editor and as Coordinator of the Society's Summer Schools over many years.
JUL
19

Relocation of the RSNSW office to Sydney University

July: The Society has moved into its new premises at 121 Darlington Road, Darlington Campus, Sydney University . The Office is located directly behind the Darlington Centre's Forum Restaurant on City Road where the Annual Dinner has been held for the past two years. While operations commenced at the new office on 19 July, there is still much work to be done in terms of sorting and moving stored library material and archives along with some bookcases and storage cabinets.

In line with this move, lectures in the future will be held in the near vicinity - either in the adjacent Institute Building or, if the need dictates, in the larger Conference Room in the Darlington Centre.

MAR
21

Governor General becomes Patron of RSNSW

We are delighted to be able to announce that the Governor-General of Australia, Major General Michael Jeffery AC, CVO, MC has agreed to become our patron. His Excellency met with the President, Karina Kelly, Hon Sec, Prof. Jak Kelly and Hon Sec (Ed), Prof. Peter Williams on Saturday 20th March at Admiralty House. The Governor-General showed a great deal of interest in our society and our plans for the future, especially in greater co-operation between the Royal Societies of Australia's states.
MAR
13

Annual Dinner 2004

Friday, 12th March 2004

Venue: the Forum Restaurant, Darlington Centre, Sydney University

Guest and speaker: Her Excellency, the Governor of NSW, Professor Marie Bashir AC

Awarding of the Clarke Memorial Medal, Edgeworth David Medal and the Society's Medal

Around 50 members and guest attended. Official guests included our Patron, Her Excellency, the Governor of New South Wales, Professor Marie Bashir, AC and her husband Sir Nicholas Shehadie and the Vice Chancellor of the University of Sydney, Prof. Gavin Brown and his partner Ms Diane Ranck as well as the 2004 Award recipients.

The address was delivered by the Governor of New South Wales, Prof. Marie Bashir AC, who spoke about her area of expertise, childhood psychiatric disorders and the struggle to diagnose and treat young people as soon as possible.

The Awards for 2003 were announced at the Dinner and presented by the Governor. Citations for the Awards were read by Prof. Jak Kelly.

AUG
14

Royal Societies of Australia Eureka Prize 2003

Our Eureka prize was awarded at the 2003 award dinner, attended by some 800 people in the Hordern Pavilion at Fox Studios on Tuesday 12 August. The food and wine were excellent, the extensive list of presentations was splendidly organised and ran remarkably to time. Unlike the Film and Media Awards there were no speeches by the winners thanking all their friends and supporters, which helps explain the good time-keeping.

It is generally believed that our choice of topic, "For Interdisciplinary Scientific Research" was well chosen and timely. The Sydney Morning Herald apparently agreed and gave leading coverage to our winners in an article by Deborah Smith, "Headway made in quest to get on top of brainwaves" in the Wednesday 13 August issue.

The prize was awarded for "Understanding Brain Dynamics" to a an extensive team led by Prof. P A Robinson (Physics, Sydney University), Dr C J Rennie (Medical physicist, Westmead Hospital), Dr E Gordon (Brain Resource Company, and Psychological Medicine, Sydney University) and Prof. J J Wright (Mental Health Research Institute of Victoria).

Electroencephalogram measurements of brain electrical activity using scalp electrodes have been made for some 125 years and have been very useful for diagnostic purposes. Most of the information has however been wasted for want of a proper theoretical framework to relate specific electrical signals to real brain processes. This has been achieved to a remarkable degree by the winning team who have taken their developments all the way from basic science to commercial development.

The results are already contributing to biological physics, medicine, pharmacology, psychology, industrial development and even to safety by providing direct information on states of alertness.

Details of the Prize can be found here.

Prof. Jak Kelly

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.

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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