The Society’s long history of convening the science community and promoting science in our state has contributed to a burgeoning archive deposited with the State Library of Victoria, who provide public access to these for the benefit of researchers. Meanwhile, we still maintain quite a few curious documents and objects from our past, squirrelled away in various shelves, cabinets and cupboards, our small archive room and the squeezy spaces beneath the raked seating of the Ellery Theatre. One such object is this mysterious portrait from the mid-20th century, painted in 1961 by Orlando Dutton, depicting a scholar, his medals and a microscope, without any name provided.
The Society’s first female member, Helen Harriet Neild (1859 – 1907) was registered as a Member of the Royal Society of Victoria on 10th October, 1889. The second child and eldest daughter of eleven siblings in the Neild household, Nellie had been brought up as a young society woman, notably singing at the Shakespeare Society’s musical gatherings in the late 1880s. She had attended the University of Melbourne to attain a science degree, which in those early years was offered as a Bachelor of Arts under Sir Frederick McCoy’s guidance. She is identified by Dr Allan Madsley as a zoologist.
Matthew Flinders’ most obvious claim to fame is that he captained the Investigator, the first ship to circumnavigate Australia, charting the sections of the coast which were unknown to Europeans.