Precursor Societies

Precursor Societies

West Australian Natural History Society – 1890 to 1897

Sir John Forrest KCMG, the first Premier of Western Australia, who was a renowned naturalist, founded the West Australian Natural History Society in 1890. The society’s enthusiastic secretary, Mr Bernard Woodward, delivered the inaugural paper on distinguishing plants from animals. This was also the time when the Geological Museum (now the Western Australian Museum) was established, an institution that would later become closely associated with the RSWA. However, the Natural History Society did not publish a journal and ceased to exist by 1897, until its name was resurrected in 1903.

Mueller Botanical Society of Western Australia – 1897 to 1903

In 1897, a group of non-professional botanists established the “Mueller Botanical Society of Western Australia,” named after Baron Ferdinand von Mueller, a prominent botanist. The society was headed by Sir John Forrest KCMG. The City of Subiaco named several places after the Baron, including Mueller Park, Mueller Road (now Roberts Road), and Ferdinand Street (now Winthrop Avenue). The first edition of the “Journal and Proceedings of the Mueller Botanic Society” was published in September 1899 and edited by James Sykes Battye. The first article, titled “The History of Plant Life,” was written by President Mr EJ Bickford, F.L.S. The journal had a total of eleven issues, with the last one released in April 1903.

West Australian Natural History Society – 1903 to 1909

In 1903, the Mueller Botanical Society expanded its focus to include other areas of natural history. As a result, it changed its name to the “West Australian Natural History Society” and incorporated the Mueller Botanic Society. The newly named “Journal of the West Australian Natural History Society” released six parts of its second volume, starting with No. I in May 1904 and concluding with No. VI in February 1909.

Natural History and Science Society of Western Australia – 1909 to 1914

In 1909, the society changed its name to the “Natural History and Science Society of Western Australia” to reflect a broader range of scientific interests. Dr. Frank Tratman, who was a physician and president of the Dental Board of the colony, became the first president of the newly named society. The first journal under this new name was published in 1910 as Volume 3 No. 1, followed by issues in 1911 (Volume 2), 1912 (Volume 4), and 1913 (Volume 5) before the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

The Royal Society of Western Australia

In 1913, Andrew Gibb Maitland, who was the Government Geologist at that time, suggested changing the name of the society to “The Royal Society of Western Australia.” A motion was passed during a meeting held on May 13 of that year to take the necessary steps to obtain Royal assent for the change of designation. The matter was left in the hands of the Council. The Society received the assent for the Royal Charter from His Majesty via the Governor in a letter dated November 18, 1913. On March 10, 1914, during the General Meeting of The Natural History and Science Society of Western Australia, Mr M.A. Browne proposed the motion that the society be renamed The Royal Society of Western Australia, which was adopted. The society also adopted a new Constitution (or Rules), which stated that the society was established for the promotion of science in all its branches.