Reception in Support of the Royal Society of Queensland
Speech delivered by His Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC as Administrator of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia:
Kaye and I warmly welcome you all to Government House this evening.
I acknowledge the Traditional Jagera and Turrbul Owners of these lands. And in the pervasive spirit of advancement of our society imbued in tonight’s reception, I acknowledge the presence of Minister Enoch, who apart from being our Innovation, Science and Digital Economy Minister, two weeks ago became our State’s first Aboriginal member to present the Parliament’s Address-in-Reply debate to a Queensland Governor.
The Royal Society of Queensland has a long and distinguished history in our State. The establishment of its predecessor, the Philosophical Society, was contemporaneous with the proclamation of the colony of Queensland in 1859.
Queensland’s first Governor, Sir George Bowen, was its first Patron. Several succeeding governors were closely involved in the development of the Society.
May I be allowed this brief reversion to type?
Governor Bowen as Patron, was succeeded by Sir James Cockle as President of the Queensland Philosophical Society. Sir James Cockle FRS was our first Chief Justice. He was a mathematician, and judicial wisdom aside, he was what we would now call a polymath. The historian Dr Bennett says his papers confounded many, including that on “Linear Differential Equations of the Third Order”.
What is of interest was his capacity to have dealt with his turbulent fellow Judge Lutwyche – by resort to measure, reasonableness and lack of judicial ambition. From what I read, I am grateful, as the 17th Chief Justice over 16 years, not to have had to deal with the problems of the 1st, albeit over a mere 13 years!
I mention all of this only because Sir James Cockle was, and rightly was, ordained a fellow of the Royal Society. And what a time for that – in the mid-19th century.
Those first members of the Society in 1859 would have been faced with a natural environment in which Europeans had lived for a mere 34 years.
To their eyes, though not in the eyes of Queensland’s indigenous peoples, the world around them would have been a cornucopia of unknown landscapes, flora, fauna, and other phenomena.
The Royal Society brought to this challenge the spirit of the “natural philosophers” who founded the original Society in London in the 17th century.
This spirit of disciplined scientific enquiry has informed the Royal Society in Queensland ever since.
Moreover, it has a tangible presence in our State. Copies of the Proceedings of the Society reaching back to 1859 are held, I understand, in the State Library and the Queensland Museum Library.
Until now, this significant body of knowledge has had one large and growing drawback – the sheer size and sometimes the fragile condition of the hard copy holdings have been a disincentive to interested parties seeking to access the knowledge stored therein.
I am delighted to say that, with the support of the Community Gambling Benefit Fund, the Society has overcome that drawback by successfully commissioning the digitisation of all of the Proceedings – crucially, in a searchable format.
And, through the generosity of Avantix, which carried out the digitisation project, these documents are now accessible via a dedicated website, the launch of which tonight’s reception commemorates.
In making readily available a rich and unique body of knowledge that spans sixteen decades, the Royal Society of Queensland continues to honour the spirit of scientific endeavour and generosity that has long been its trademark.
As Governor and Patron, I congratulate the Society on a marvellous achievement that is significant both nationally and internationally, and that will bring benefits to our State now and well into the future.