Australian Academy of Science

The Australian Academy of Science

The Australian Academy of Science was founded on 16 February 1954 by Queen Elizabeth II. John Eccles said [2]:-
The historic character of this occasion will be appreciated when I inform you that this is the second occasion on which a reigning British Monarch has personally founded a scientific academy. The first occasion was almost 300 years earlier when Charles II founded the Royal Society of London.
It was based in Canberra. The group of people who promoted the setting up of an Australian Academy were all fellows of the Royal Society of London who lived in Australia. Perhaps not surprisingly, therefore, the structure of the Academy was modelled on that of the Royal Society of London. The foundation stone for the Academy's building was laid on 2 May 1958 when John Eccles delivered a speech explaining the early history of the Academy [2]:-
In 1951 a meeting of leading scientists, technologists and industrialists was held in Canberra to discuss the future of science and technology in Australia. This conference clearly established that there was an urgent need for the establishment, at the highest level, of a national organisation of scientists. The Royal Society of London had long played this important role in Great Britain, having there a position of unquestioned authority in all matters pertaining to science and the applications of science. This conference served to enthuse some of the leading scientists of Australia, notably Professor Oliphant and Dr D F Martyn, with the idea of founding a national academy that would do for Australia what the Royal Society was doing for Great Britain. Fortunately there were resident in Australia 11 Fellows of the Royal Society of London and in order to make a sufficiently representative body these Fellows selected a further 13 scientists to help in the task of founding the Australian Academy of Science, as it was to be called. In July 1952 there was a memorable meeting with the Australian National Research Council here in Canberra and the Officers of this Council, under the Chairmanship of Professor Elkin, with great magnanimity, agreed to recommend to their members that the Australian National Research Council be dissolved in order to make way for the Australian Academy of Science, provided that the new Academy assumed responsibility for the various duties and functions of the Australian National Research Council. The stage was thus set for forming the Academy of Science and petitioning for a Royal Charter. A council of 10 was set up with Professor Oliphant as the first President.
As stated in this quote, the first President was the physicist Sir Mark Oliphant. Of the 24 founding fellows, four were mathematicians: Keith Edward Bullen (mathematics and geophysics); Thomas MacFarland Cherry (mathematics); Edmund Alfred Cornish (statistics); and Thomas Gerald Room (mathematics). Thomas Cherry was the third President of the Academy, serving in that role from 1961 to 1964.

The quote above giving the early history of the Academy came from the laying the foundation stone for the Academy's building in Canberra. An opening ceremony for this new building was held on 6 May 1959 at which Mark Oliphant said [3]:-

The revolutionary concept of Mr Roy Grounds of Grounds Romberg and Boyd was chosen as most in keeping with the nature and objectives of the Academy of Science. Mr Grounds devoted himself to the task with enormous enthusiasm and imaginative insight and we were able to approve his plans and to let a contract in January 1958. ... The Academy of Science now possesses a home and its existence is apparent to all who come to Canberra.
This building, now called the Shine Dome [1]:-
... contains a central lecture theatre surrounded by meeting rooms on the ground floor, an upper level with gallery seating, and a basement area. It also contains the Basser Library and Fenner Archives. The Dome is one of the two culturally significant buildings owned by the Australian Academy of Science. Ian Potter House, the other building, houses the Academy secretariat.
The aims of the Academy are to promote science, particularly by recognising outstanding contributions to science, promoting education and public awareness, helping develop science policy, and fostering international relations. The Academy today has around 350 fellows, sixteen new Australian fellows being elected every year. The Academy also elects a small number of distinguished foreign scientists, for example Paul Erdős was elected to the Academy (see [5]).

The Academy rewards excellence by giving awards on a regular basis. Particularly relevant to the topics of this archive are the Pawsey Medal which is awarded each year to a young physicist, and the two awards for mathematics, the Moran Medal given for outstanding research by a young researcher in applied probability, biometrics, mathematical genetics, psychometrics or statistics, and the Hannan Medal awarded, in rotation, for outstanding research in statistical science, pure mathematics, and applied mathematics (including computational mathematics).

The Moran Medal is named for Patrick Alfred Pierce Moran (1917-1988), an Australian statistician who made significant contributions to probability theory and its application to population and evolutionary genetics. Details of the Moran Medal, awarded to outstanding Australian statistical scientists, is given at THIS LINK.

The Hannan Medal is named for Edward James Hannan (1921-1994), an Australian statistician who is the co-discoverer of the Hannan-Quinn information criterion. Details of the Hannan Medal, awarded to outstanding Australian mathematical scientists, is given at THIS LINK.

The Academy sponsors a number of conferences relevant to mathematics. For example it sponsored the First International Conference on the Theory of Groups held in 1965 and the Second International Conference on the Theory of Groups held in Canberra in August 1973. In July 1976 the Academy ran a symposium on Waves on water of variable depth at the Australian Academy of Science in Canberra.

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