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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




Attention has already been drawn to the peculiarly important role of scientific societies in fostering the growth of science. With the emergence of the giant technological industries of the twentieth century, and the expenditure of large sums of money on State, industrial, and institutional research, science as a career has offered attractive prospects to many able minds. This, in its turn, has meant the emergence of societies whose primary interests are in the more professional aspects of science, though it has never, in fact, meant the segregation of such interests. Taking into account also the many new fields of endeavour which derive from the historical disciplines, the pattern that emerges, particularly in the great industrial countries, is a complex one. In New Zealand the relatively small number of scientists and technologists has resulted in the scientific societies tending to take an interest in a wide spectrum of scientific and professional matters.

Royal Society

The senior body is the Royal Society of New Zealand, successor to the earlier New Zealand Institute, as constituted by the Royal Society of New Zealand Act of 1933. It functions under a Council consisting of the Minister for Scientific and Industrial Research, four members appointed by the Governor-General in Council, eight members (two per body) appointed by the Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury, and Otago member bodies, one member appointed by each of the other member bodies, the president, vice-presidents, and honorary treasurer if not otherwise members of the Council, and two members elected by the fellows of the Society. In addition the immediate past president continues as a member for one year, and provision is made for the appointment by the Council itself of any fit person. The present member bodies are the Auckland Institute, the Wellington, Canterbury, Otago, Rotorua, Hawke's Bay, Nelson, Southland, and Waikato branches, and the Geological Society of New Zealand. Provided with a continuing annual grant from the Government (£5,000), it has the responsibility of issuing the Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand and in a variety of ways plays an important part in the conduct of scientific affairs in the country – its representatives serve, for example, on such bodies as the National Parks Authority, the Board of Trustees of the National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum, the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture, the Carter Observatory Board, the Medical Research Council, the National Historic Places Trust, the Ross Dependency Research Committee, and the Ross Sea Committee. It organises, triennially, the New Zealand Science Congress, and through its awards encourages research by tangible recognition. These awards which include the Hutton Memorial Medal, the Hector Memorial Medal and Prize, the Hamilton Memorial Prize, the T. K. Sidey Medal and Prize, and the Cooper Memorial Award, are complemented by various special grants to assist in the prosecution of research projects. Its library is also an important contribution to New Zealand's resources for study and research.

At the international level the Society accepts a number of major responsibilities, being member body for New Zealand in the International Council of Scientific Unions and the Pacific Science Association, a nominating body for the Nobel Peace Prize, the Kalinga Prize for science writing, the Walter Burfitt Medal for scientific or medical research, the Nuffield Commonwealth Bursaries Scheme, and the like. It is also a corresponding society to many senior learned societies.

Institute of Chemistry

Although numbering distinguished physical scientists amongst its fellows (who are elected on the basis of their scientific achievements), the Royal Society has always derived its chief support from those interested in the non-physical sciences. Amongst those societies whose concern is with the physical sciences the most important is the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry, a body with a very large professional membership. It is the national successor to the smaller local societies, such as the Auckland Chemical Society (founded in 1925), which preceded its formation in 1930. Following the lead of this body Professor H. G. Denham of Canterbury University College prepared a scheme which resulted, under the chairmanship and subsequent presidency of Professor W. P. Evans, in the formation of the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry, registered in 1932 as an incorporated society. It consists of the fellows and associates (with a small group of local members) organised under its Council into six branches – Auckland, Waikato, Manawatu, Wellington, Canterbury, and Otago. The elected Council consists of the president, vice-president, honorary general secretary, and one delegate from each branch. Since 1936 it has published its own journal and conducts examinations as required. Like the Royal Society, it encourages scientific endeavour in a variety of ways including the making of local awards to undergraduates and national awards to professional chemists – the Chemical Essay Prize, the I.C.I. Prize, and the Morcom Green Edwards Prize.

Association of Scientists

The New Zealand Association of Scientists (formerly the Association of Scientific Workers) was established in 1941 with the general aims of promoting the interests of scientists and securing the widest possible application of science and scientific methods. It has a wide membership, with branches at Auckland, Wellington, and Canterbury, and presents a research medal annually. It publishes the New Zealand Science Review and the invaluable Directory of New Zealand Science.

A number of smaller bodies cater for such special interests as bacteriology (the New Zealand Association of Bacteriologists), dairy science (the New Zealand Dairy Science Association), ecology (the New Zealand Ecological Society), electronics (the New Zealand Electronics Institute), entomology (the Entomological Society of New Zealand), genetics (the New Zealand Genetical Society), ornithology (the Ornithological Society of New Zealand), astronomy (the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand), soil science (the New Zealand Society of Soil Science), and statistics (the New Zealand Statistical Association). A full list of these bodies may be found in the above-mentioned directory. Mention should be made of the very large and active New Zealand Institution of Engineers, whose interests merge with those of the more purely scientific societies.