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Natural History and Science in South Australia

Nature volume 140, page 419 (04 September 1937) | Download Citation



THE presidential address before the Royal Society of South Australia, delivered by Dr. C. T. Madigan last year, is devoted to the history of the hundred years of science in South Australia as appropriate to this centenary year (Trana. Proc. Soy. Soc. S. Australia, 60, Dec. 1936). He points out that the Royal Society is really older than the State itself, for though it has an unbroken existence only since 1853, its origin can be traced back to the South Australian Literary and Scientific Association initiated among the founders of the Colony in London in 1834, The active functioning of the Royal Society dates from the inspiring presidency of Prof. Ralph Tate ; in the twenty-five years of his association with the Society between 1876 and 1901, it became the established medium for publication of original scientific contributions. The nature of this published work is summarized by Prof, Harvey Johnstono for general zoology, by Sir Douglas Mawson on geology, by Prof. J. G. Wood and Mr. J. M. Black on botany, by Dr. James David-son on entomology, and Dr. T. D. Campbell on anthropology. Naturally these descriptive and natural history subjects, so important in a young colony, bulk most largely in this first century, and Prof. R. W, Chapman's report, whilst reminding us that many of Sir William Bragg's first publications in physics appeared in the Transactions of the Society, makes it most abundantly clear why this state of affairs prevailed. Before the Society or its predecessor, the Adelaide Philosophical Society, could spend its energies upon the publication of natural history, it had to pass through a phase in which it was the public forum for the advocacy of any and every cause associated with general education. In those days, even so late as 1868, a speaker urging the establishment of free schools, could quote a South Australian parent in this strain, "I have ten children who can't read or write. I can't read or write myself, why should they?"

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