In 1854 two organisations formed with similar aims and membership, these being The Philosophical Society of Victoria (founded 15 June, 1854, inaugural president Andrew Clarke) and The Victorian Institute for the Advancement of Science (founded 12 August, 1854, inaugural president Justice Sir Redmond Barry). These two merged in July 1855 to form the Philosophical Institute of Victoria, with Clarke as the inaugural president. The Philosophical Institute received Royal Charter in 1859, and the first president of the freshly renamed Royal Society of Victoria was Ferdinand von Mueller (later Baron Sir Ferdinand von Mueller), then Victoria's Government Botanist. In 1860 the RSV organised the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition under the Presidency of Victorian Governor Sir Henry Barkly.
The Society has played an important role in the life of Melbourne and Victoria, including a foundational relationship with the Melbourne Museum, the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, the Melbourne Observatory and Victoria's National Parks. The Society convened the first Australian Antarctic Exploration Committee in 1885, commissioned the Burke and Wills expedition and established the Victorian Institute of Marine Sciences in 1978 (now the Marine and Freshwater Resources Institute from 1996). Many long-standing community organisations concerned with nature and conservation have grown from an early association with the Royal Society of Victoria, such as the Victorian National Parks Association and the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria.
Located in its heritage-listed headquarters at 8 La Trobe Street, in the centre of Melbourne, the Society's modern role is to communicate and advocate for the important role of science in society, providing twice-monthly public lectures about the latest scientific work and thinking underway in Victoria, and convening forums with government and community to explore an evidence-based approach to issues facing the state. The Society conducts a state-wide program through management of the Inspiring Victoria program, a federally-funded initiative to engage communities with science and promote scientific literacy, including National Science Week.
The Society edits and produces the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, one of Australia's longest-running regional science journals. Back issues from the 19th century through to the early 21st century are digitised and accessible from the State Library of Victoria's online catalogue, along with holdings of the Society's historical papers and archives. Issues published from 2009 are available online, open access through CSIRO Publishing.
The Society confers prizes, awards and medals to recognise high-achievement throughout a scientist's various career stages. RSV bursaries are provided to school students through annual sponsorship of the Science Talent Search run by the Science Teachers' Association of Victoria. Early career researchers are acknowledged annually through the Young Scientist Research Prizes and the Phillip Law Postdoctoral Award for the Physical Sciences. Peak career achievements are recognised through the annual award of the RSV Medal for Excellence in Scientific Research. Distinguished lifetime contributions to science, in particular the public engagement with and understanding of science, are recognised through election as an RSV Fellow.
Fellows of the Royal Society of Victoria are entitled to the use of the professional postnominal FRSV; subscribed members of the RSV are entitled to use of the professional postnominal MRSV.
- 1859: Baron Sir Ferdinand von Mueller
- 1860-1863: Sir Henry Barkly
- 1864: Sir Frederick McCoy
- 1865: Rev. Dr John Ignatius Bleasdale
- 1866-1884: Robert L.J. Ellery
- 1885-1900: William Charles Kernot
- 1901: Dr James Jamieson
- 1902: Edward John White
- 1903: John Dennant
- 1904: Sir Walter Baldwin Spencer
- 1905: George Sweet
- 1906: Edward John Dunn
- 1907: Calder E. Oliver
- 1908-1909: Pietro P.G.E. Baracchi
- 1910-1911: Ernest Willington Skeats
- 1912-1913: John Shephard
- 1914-1915: Thomas Sergeant Hall
- 1916-1917: William A. Osborne
- 1918-1919: James A. Kershaw
- 1920-1921: Alfred James Ewart
- 1922-1923: Frank Wisewould
- 1924: Thomas H. Laby
- 1925-1926: Joseph M. Baldwin
- 1927-1928: Wilfred Eade Agar
- 1929-1930: Frederick Chapman
- 1931-1932: Herbert S. Summers
- 1933-1934: William J. Young
- 1935-1936: Norman A. Esserman
- 1937-1938: Samuel M. Wadham
- 1939-1940: Daniel J. Mahony
- 1941-1942: Reuben T. Patton
- 1943-1944: William Baragwanath
- 1945-1946: John King Davis
- 1947-1948: Dermot A. Casey
- 1949-1950: Philip Crosbie Morrison
- 1951-1952: John S. Turner
- 1953-1954: Frank Leslie Stillwell
- 1955-1956: Edwin S. Hills
- 1957-1958: Valentine G. Anderson
- 1959-1960: Geoffrey W. Leeper
- 1961-1962: Richard R. Garran
- 1963-1964: Richard T.M. Pescott
- 1965-1966: John H. Chinner
- 1967-1968: Phillip G. Law
- 1969-1970: Edmund D. Gill
- 1971-1972: Alfred Dunbavin Butcher
- 1973-1974: Sir Robert R. Blackwood
- 1975-1976: James D. Morrison
- 1977-1978: John F. Lovering AO
- 1979-1980: Lionel L. Stubbs
- 1980-1982: Gordon D. Aitchison
- 1983-1984: David M. Churchill
- 1985-1986: Dr Grisha A. Sklovsky
- 1986-1987: Dr Terence P. O'Brien
- 1987 (Jul-Dec): Dr Grisha A. Sklovsky
- 1988-1990: Dr William R.S. Briggs
- 1991-1992: Dr Graeme F. Watson
- 1993-1994: Dr John W. Zillman AO
- 1995-1996: Dr Maxwell G. Lay AM
- 1997-1998: Professor Em. Herbert H. Bolotin
- 1999-2001: Associate Professor Gordon D. Sanson
- 2001-2003: Associate Professor Neil W. Archbold
- 2006-2007: Associate Professor Bruce Livett
- 2007-2010: Professor Graham D. Burrows AO
- 2010-2012: Professor Lynne Selwood AO
- 2013-2017: Dr William D. (Bill) Birch AM
- 2017- : Mr David Zerman
- Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria. Melbourne : The Society, 1889- Semiannual. ISSN 0035-9211. Formerly the Transactions and proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria
- Centre, The University of Melbourne eScholarship Research. "Victorian Institute for the Advancement of Science - Corporate entry - Encyclopedia of Australian Science". www.eoas.info. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
- Centre, The University of Melbourne eScholarship Research. "Philosophical Society of Victoria - Corporate entry - Encyclopedia of Australian Science". www.eoas.info. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
- Malone, Betty, "Clarke, Sir Andrew (1824–1902)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, retrieved 10 February 2020
- "The Royal Society of Victoria". www.burkeandwills.net.au. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
- https://rsv.org.au/ The Royal Society of Victoria
- https://inspiringvictoria.org.au/ Inspiring Victoria
- https://www.slv.vic.gov.au/ State Library of Victoria
- https://www.publish.csiro.au/rs/AbouttheJournal Proceedings of the RSV
- https://rsv.org.au/how-to-join/ RSV Membership
- The Royal Society of Victoria The Royal Society of Victoria's web site.
- The Royal Society of Victoria Building Tour Virtual tour of the headquarters of The Royal Society of Victoria headquarters in Melbourne.
- CSIRO Publishing Current, open access editions of the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria published online by CSIRO Publishing.
- State Library of Victoria, Digitised Collections Access to the digitised Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, together with those of its foundation societies.
- The RSV's Australian Eclipse Expedition to Cape York in 1871 An account of the RSV's Australian Eclipse Expedition to Cape York in 1871 in the Journal of Astronomy History and Heritage by Dr Nick Lomb.
- Burke & Wills Web A comprehensive website containing many of the historical documents relating to the Victorian Exploring (Burke & Wills) Expedition.
- Burke & Wills 150th A website recording the activities for the Commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Victorian Exploring Expedition (Burke and Wills).
- The Burke & Wills Historical Society The Burke & Wills Historical Society.