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150 years of discovery

150 years of discovery – Royal Society Te Apārangi celebrates its 150th anniversary

This year the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi celebrates 150 years of discovery, and supporting the pursuit of knowledge.

To celebrate, the Society has a full programme of events and activities planned over the six months leading up to 10 October, 150 years to the day that legislation was signed establishing the New Zealand Institute, as the Society was previously called.

Its celebratory programme kicks off on April 5 with a formal dinner that will also launch a book on its history by New Zealand historian John E Martin called Illuminating our World: 150 Years of the Royal Society Te Apārangi. This will be followed by a symposium with international leaders of academies from around the world to discuss key concerns including issues of public engagement and public trust, how to manage global research, and how to improve diversity.

A number of activities and events will follow including an exhibition of portraits telling the story of the Society, science demos, a product development challenge and a chance for school students to have their questions answered by its experts, events with international researchers and writers including Helen Czerski and James Gleick and regional events for New Zealand researchers to share their latest discoveries with communities.

The six-month celebration will conclude on 10 October with a special gala event in Auckland to mark exactly 150 years from the private Act of parliament which formally set the independent organisation up.

Back in 1867 Sir James Hector, head of the Geological Survey and the newly established Colonial Museum, recognised that New Zealand needed an organisation to allow people to come together to discuss and share knowledge at meetings and to publish their findings to share with peers in New Zealand and overseas. Thus was born the New Zealand Institute (later renamed the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi) and its published transactions.

President of the Society Emeritus Professor Richard Bedford says the organisation today is essentially doing the same thing that it did when it first began: supporting the discovery and sharing of knowledge in New Zealand.

“It served a vital role in the early years of New Zealand to support exploration and to share what was being discovered from one end of the country to the other by newcomers to New Zealand about New Zealand’s unique geography, fauna and flora and mātauranga māori.

“The Society is committed to continuing to play this role in New Zealand for hopefully another 150 years and beyond.

“We seek to serve the many different communities in New Zealand, from supporting researchers to follow their most interesting ideas, through to fostering an appreciation and interest in discovery in our school children.

“We also seek to support the people of New Zealand to face future challenges by providing them with the latest findings on these issues so that they feel empowered to make decisions.

“Over the last few years, for example, we have provided updates on topics including:

• fluoride in water

• pest management

• how climate change will impact New Zealand and what we can do to reduce the risks

• the role of sugar in health.

“We have work underway on other issues including the health impacts of climate change and how New Zealand is placed for the revolution occurring in gene editing.

“To kick off our 150th anniversary celebrations we are delighted to be able to host colleagues from many of our international counterparts, including England, Scotland, China, Finland, Canada, South Africa, Germany, Fiji and Australia for a special symposium.

“In launching our full and varied celebration programme leading up to the 10th of October, we hope there will be something there to interest and engage all New Zealanders.”

To view the full programme of events visit

Full programme: Celebrating 150 years of Discovery

NationwideIlluminating our World: 150 Years of the Royal Society Te Apārangi

A book commemorating 150 years of the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi. Learn about the Society’s fascinating history as written by NZ historian and author John E Martin. This book will be available for purchase online after its launch at the 150th Anniversary Gala Dinner.

Nationwide150th Anniversary Regional Lectures

Future Focussed Local Experts—hosted by the Society’s ten branches across New Zealand. These events include a 150th anniversary introduction by the President or Vice-President of the Royal Society of New Zealand including a short video of our history. June, July and August – see below for venues.

OnlineAsk Me Anything

School students are encouraged to ask questions of Society’s Fellows about their specialist subjects. Great questions and their answers will be publicised on our website.

Online150 years of Discovery

An informative timeline, our time machine, and video documenting the growth and contribution of the Society to New Zealand. Articles will be added regularly, reviewing important moments from the Society’s history.

WellingtonRoyal Society of New Zealand 150th Anniversary Portrait Exhibition

Paintings of Society presidents and trailblazers on display in Parliament’s main foyer, telling the story of our history and the historical links between the Society and government (April to June).

Wellington150 years – Objects of Discovery

A wide range of artefacts and significant documents that celebrate the past, present and future of the Society on display every week on Marsden’s Desk, in the foyer of Te Whare Apārangi, 11 Turnbull Street, Thorndon. You can find them on our website as they are displayed.

SchoolsCREST Educational Programmes

A range of teaching themes celebrating the important people and activities of the Society over the past 150 years. More on our website.

SchoolsCREST and NZ Institute of Food Science and Technology Programme (NZIFST)

A product development challenge where students develop new foods including staple items that could have been eaten 150 years ago. More on our website.

4AucklandPrestigious Speakers: Sir Venkatraman (Venki) Ramakrishnan

Antibiotics and the cell’s protein factory

Sir Venki is a Nobel Prize winning biologist and President of The Royal Society, London – he explains the ribosome and its connection to antibiotic resistance.







Cosmic Shambles LIVE

A high-energy science and stand-up comedy variety show featuring UK hosts, comedians Robin Ince and Josie Long with Professor Lucie Green (renowned solar scientist), Dr Helen Czerski (physicist and oceanographer), and Matt Parker (mathematician)




Wellington150th Anniversary Symposium [invitation only]

International Academies will attend panel discussions on key issues, lectures from our new Fellows, the 150th launch dinner and the President’s dinner.

7WellingtonLiterary Talk: Dr Helen Czerski

The Need to Talk about Physics

Helen is a British physicist, oceanographer, broadcaster and author. Her latest book is Storm in a Teacup – The Physics of Everyday Life.





Public Lecture: Dr Helen Czerski

Bubbles: the bath and beyond

Helen is also a bubble expert – she explains what bubbles do and why are they important?












New Plymouth

2017 Charles Fleming Lectures: Professor Bruce Clarkson

Urban ecological restoration: the new frontier?

Bruce is University of Waikato’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research, but he has been awarded the Charles Fleming medal for his work as an ecologist. He speaks on ecological restoration and the new discipline of urban ecology.

15WellingtonLiterary Talk: James Gleick

In conversation

James, a Pulitzer Prize nominated author and science historian chats with Wallace Chapman about his latest book Time Travel: A History.

16AucklandRoyal Society Te Apārangi General Non-Fiction Prize

Honouring the year’s finest writing from New Zealanders dealing with fact and reality – a new category in the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

7NelsonNelson Science Society

Dr Bruno Lemke

Global consequences of increased heat stress due to climate change

8WellingtonRoyal Society of New Zealand Wellington Branch

Sir Peter Gluckman

New life science technologies and social license

13WhanganuiWanganui Collegiate School Address: Professor Michael Corballis

Emeritus Professor at University of Auckland’s Department of Psychology, Michael talks about inspirations from throughout his career to current pupils at his former school.








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