Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events
SEP
02

Compendium of 2013 news

The Poggendorf Lecture

"Biodiversity and the future of agriculture" - Professor Geoff Gurr

After a hiatus of 20 years, the Poggendorf Lecture was delivered in conjunction with Charles Sturt University, Orange, on Tuesday, 13 August 2013. The lecture was delivered by Professor Geoff Gurr, a biologist and entomologist and Professor of Applied Ecology at Charles Sturt University, where he specialises in the utilisation of natural solutions to control agricultural pests to partially or completely replace synthetic pesticides. 

The population of the world is increasing by 170,000 souls per day. Currently, 40% of land is used for some agricultural purpose and the demand for agricultural products is expected to increase not only as a consequence of population growth but by the increasing living standards of people in the developing world. For example, the growth in meat demand is very strong and it takes 10 kg of grain to produce 1 kg of animal protein. This leads to the conclusion that food production needs to double by 2050. The so-called "green revolution" of the last few decades has enabled the increase in food production to largely match population growth, largely through the application of nitrogen, phosphorus, some trace elements, water and the wide-scale use of pesticides. But was this revolution truly "green"? Human inputs are largely non-renewable but, importantly, do not actually address the root cause of the problem – pest outbreaks are not due to a lack of pesticide, they are due to other imbalances in the environment. So the world is faced with a "wicked problem" of seeking food security, having finite renewable resources, a declining availability of agricultural land, changing climate and a moral obligation to preserve biodiversity (human activity, including agriculture, causes biodiversity loss at a rate about 10,000 times greater than the background rate). 

Royal Society of NSW Forum 2013

Left to right: Antony Funnell, Prof Schmidt, Ms Wheeldon, Prof Schwartz, Prof Crossley.

The Royal Society of NSW Forum 2013 was held at the Powerhouse Museum on Thursday 6 June before a large audience. Antony Funnell of the ABC's Radio National moderated the discussion between: 

  • Professor Brian Schmidt AC FRSN, Nobel Prize winner 
  • Professor Steven Schwartz AM, former Macquarie University Vice Chancellor 
  • Ms Judith Wheeldon AM, former Principal of both Queenwood School for Girls and Abbotsleigh 
  • Professor Merlin Crossley, Dean of Science at the University of NSW 

Among other questions, our panellists discussed: will a falling focus on science and technology in education really be a problem for innovation in Australia? Is it a matter of basic education? Is it poor teaching? Is there a fundamental aversion to maths and science in Australia? Given our reliance on technology, why is there not a greater desire to utilise it and to develop it? Is there a "science literacy" problem in Australia? Why have we become passive about science and technology, rather than embracing it at its fundamental levels? 

In case you missed it, it was broadcast on ABC Radio National Big Ideas on Monday 17 June (click Forum 2013 to download a recording of the broadcast).

Annual awards evening and dinner

On Friday 19 April, the annual awards evening and annual dinner was held at the Union University and Schools Club in Sydney. The dinner was extremely well attended and the address by Judith Wheeldon AM was very topical and stimulated a lot of discussion. Ms Wheeldon presented the Clarke Medal to distinguished zoologist Marilyn Renfree, the Edgeworth David Medal to Dr Joanne Whittaker, a remarkable young geophysicist who is doing ground-breaking work on plate tectonics, and the Royal Society of NSW medal to John Hardie in recognition of his 40 years of contribution to the Society, six of which have been as its President.

Left to right: The President, Dr Donald Hector, Judith Wheeldon AM, Professor Marilyn Renfree AO, John Hardie MRSN, Dr Joanne Whittaker.

Inaugural Fellows Lecture held

The Society was proud to have Professor Michael Archer AM present the inaugural Fellows Lecture on Wednesday, 3 April 2013. Professor Archer was one of the first Fellows appointed by the Society, recognising his outstanding work as a palaeontologist, particularly in relation to the Riversleigh fossil find in Queensland, one of the richest fossil deposits in the world.

Prof Mike Archer AM FRSN delivers the inaugural Royal Society of NSW Fellows Lecture.

Governor invests new Fellows

On Wednesday13 March, the two Fellows appointed in 2012, Prof Brian Schmidt AC FAA FRS FRSN and Prof the Hon Barry Jones AO FAA FAHA FTSE FASSA FRSN were formally invested by our patron, the Governor, Prof Marie Bashir AC CVO at a ceremony at Government House. We were delighted that our awards advisory panel, chaired by the Chief Scientist and Engineer of NSW, Prof Mary O'Kane, and consisting of the Deans of Science of the NSW-based universities were able to attend, together with a number of other distinguished guests.

Prof Brian Schmidt (centre-left) and Prof the Hon Barry Jones (cenre-right) with the the Governor after receiving their Fellowships with Vice President Em. Prof Heinrich Hora (left) and President Dr Donald Hector (right) at Government House, Sydney.
APR
20

2013 awards evening & dinner

On Friday 19 April, the annual awards evening and annual dinner was held at the Union University and Schools Club in Sydney. The dinner was extremely well attended and the address by Judith Wheeldon AM was very topical and stimulated a lot of discussion. Ms Wheeldon presented the Clarke Medal to distinguished zoologist Marilyn Renfree, the Edgeworth David Medal to Dr Joanne Whittaker, a remarkable young geophysicist who is doing ground-breaking work on plate tectonics, and the Royal Society of NSW medal to John Hardie in recognition of his 40 years of contribution to the Society, six of which have been as its President.
Left to right: The President, Dr Donald Hector, Judith Wheeldon AM, Professor Marilyn Renfree AO, John Hardie MRSN, Dr Joanne Whittaker.
APR
04

Inaugural Fellow's Lecture (2013)

The Society was proud to have Professor Michael Archer AM present the inaugural Fellow's Lecture on Wednesday, 3 April 2013. Professor Archer was one of the first Fellows appointed by the Society, recognising his outstanding work as a palaeontologist, particularly in relation to the Riversleigh fossil find in Queensland, one of the richest fossil deposits in the world.
Prof Mike Archer AM FRSN delivers the inaugural Royal Society of NSW Fellow's Lecture.
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.
MAR
14

Governor invests new Fellows

On Wednesday13 March, the two Fellows appointed in 2012, Prof Brian Schmidt AC FAA FRS FRSN and Prof the Hon Barry Jones AO FAA FAHA FTSE FASSA FRSN were formally invested by our patron, the Governor, Prof Marie Bashir AC CVO at a ceremony at Government House. We were delighted that our awards advisory panel, chaired by the Chief Scientist and Engineer of NSW, Prof Mary O'Kane, and consisting of the Deans of Science of the NSW-based universities were able to attend, together with a number of other distinguished guests.
Prof Brian Schmidt (centre-left) and Prof the Hon Barry Jones (cenre-right) with the the Governor after receiving their Fellowships with Vice President Em. Prof Heinrich Hora (left) and President Dr Donald Hector (right) at Government House, Sydney.​
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).

DEC
31

News 2007

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

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".
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.
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.
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

APR
10

Annual General Meeting 2003

The 2003 AGM and the April Meeting of the Royal Society of New South Wales was held on 9th April, 2003, at a venue provided by the Sydney Harbour Foreshores Authority, The Rocks.

The President of the Society, David Craddock, addressed the meeting. In his talk, titled "Publish and Perish?", he drew together three significant anniversaries which have occurred or will occur in 2003. These were the bicentenary of the first newspaper in the Colony, the 170th anniversary of the founding of the Sydney Mechanics' Institute and the centenary of powered flight. Professor Jak Kelly thanked the speaker, and a number of Members and guests adjourned to a nearby restaurant for dinner.

MAR
22

Annual Dinner and Awards 2003

The 2003 Annual Dinner of the Royal Society of New South Wales was held on Friday 21st March, 2003 at the Darlington Centre, City Road, Sydney University. The after-dinner speaker was Professor Mike Archer, Director of the Australian Museum, who addressed Members and guests on FATE, the Future of Australia's Threatened Ecosystems.

Awards of the Society were made for 2002. Professor Marcela Bilek of Sydney University was at the dinner and was presented with the Edgeworth David Medal. Professor Robert Hill's citation for the Clarke Medal was read; Professor Hill of the University of Adelaide was unable to be present. Citations for both awards will be published in the Journal and Proceedings of the Society.

DEC
31

December 2002 - The Royal Societies of Australia Eureka Prize

The Council has recently made contact with kindred Royal Societies in each State with a view to cooperation in a number of areas. The first result of this is the establishment of The Royal Societies of Australia Eureka Prize for Interdisciplinary Scientific Research. The value of the prize is $10,000. The Royal Societies sponsoring this prize are the Royal Societies of Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland and Western Australia. The prize will be awarded to a partnership, group, team or organisation for outstanding scientific research which involves the active collaboration and/or cooperation of scientists in two or more disciplines. The research must have been undertaken in Australia by Australian residents.

Details of the Prize can be found here.
JUN
30

RSNSW gets its own domain name

June 2002

The Royal Society of NSW acquired its own domain: royalsoc.org.au.

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 late 2020. 

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

Sydney meetings 

Hunter meetings

Southern Highlands meetings

 

 

Details of events scheduled for the remainder of the current year by the Southern Highlands branch can be found on its website.

Details of past events held by the Southern Highlands branch can be found here.

We use cookies on our website. Some of them are essential for the operation of the site, while others help us to improve this site and the user experience (tracking cookies). You can decide for yourself whether you want to allow cookies or not. Please note that if you reject them, you may not be able to use all the functionalities of the site.