The Royal Dublin Society in the 1830s

1837
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Excerpt from Lewis' "Topographical Dictionary of Ireland" for the metropolis of Dublin in 1837. For more snapshots of pre-famine local history for Dublin city parishes, see below.

LITERATURE AND SCIENCE

The Royal Dublin Society originated, in 1731, in the private meetings of a few scientific gentlemen, among whom were Dr Price and Dr Madden, and was supported entirely by their own contributions until the year 1749, when they were incorporated by royal charter, under the name of "the Dublin Society for promoting husbandry and other useful arts in Ireland," and received an annual grant of £500, which was gradually augmented to £10,000, until lately, when it has been reduced to £5000.

It is under the patronage of the king and the lord-lieutenant (the latter being president), and there are seven vice-presidents, two honorary secretaries, and an assistant secretary.

The literary and scientific department consists of

  • a professor of botany and agriculture,
  • a professor of chemistry,
  • a professor of mineralogy and geology,
  • a librarian,
  • teachers of landscape, figure, and ornamental drawing and of sculpture,
  • and a curator of the botanic garden.

The society, which in 1821 was honoured with the designation of "Royal," held its meetings in Shaws-court till 1767, when the members removed to a building which they had erected in Grafton-street, whence, in 1796, they removed to Hawkins-street, where they erected an edifice for their repository, laboratory, library, and galleries; and in 1815 they purchased, for $£20,000, the spacious and splendid mansion of the Duke of Leinster, in Kildare-street.

  • This building is 140 feet in length and 70 in depth, and is approached from the street by a massive gateway of rusticated masonry: the principal front is of the Corinthian order, richly embellished; before it is a spacious court, and in the rear an extensive lawn fronting Merrion- square.
  • The entrance-hall is enriched with casts taken from figures by the first masters, and there are also several busts executed by artists who had been pupils of the society. The library, in the east wing, is 64 feet long and 24 feet wide, and is surrounded by a light gallery; it contains 12,000 volumes and is rich in botanical works.
  • The museum occupies six rooms, containing miscellaneous curiosities, specimens of animals, mineralogy, geology, &c, the specimens of the mineralogical department are classified on the Wernerian system.
  • The lecture-room is capable of accommodating 400 auditors. The apartments for the use of members are all on the ground floor.
  • The drawing schools occupy a range of detached buildings; they are appropriately fitted up, and are attended by 200 pupils.

The botanical studies are under the direction of a professor, who delivers lectures both at the Society house and in the Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin.

  • These are about a mile from the city, occupying a space of more than 27 acres, watered by the Tolka, and containing every requisite variety of soil for botanical purposes.
  • The garden is formed into subdivisions for agricultural and horticultural specimens: it has the house of the professor and the lecture-rooms near the entrance, and is open to the public on Tuesdays and Fridays; the admission is free, as also to the lectures, schools, and museum.

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The Royal Irish Academy was instituted, in 1782, by a number of gentlemen, members of the University, chiefly to promote the study of polite literature, science, and antiquities, and was incorporated in 1786: it is assisted in its objects by a parliamentary grant of £300 per annum, and honoured with the patronage of the King; and is under the superintendence of a visitor (who is the lord-lieutenant for the time being), a president, four vice-presidents and a council of 21, a treasurer, librarian, and two secretaries.

  • Its literary management is entrusted to three committees, respectively superintending the departments of science, polite literature, and antiquities.
  • At the annual meetings premiums, accruing from the interest of £1500 bequeathed by Col. Burton Conyngham, are awarded for the best essays on given subjects, for which persons not members of the academy may become competitors; the successful essays are sometimes published in the transactions of the academy, of which 17 volumes in quarto have already appeared.
  • The library contains some very valuable manuscripts relating to Ireland: the large room for meetings of the academy is embellished with portraits of their presidents.