Scoresby Shepherd & Sprigg Diving Bell SARDIScoresby Shepherd & Sprigg Diving Bell SARDI

According to the web page found at, the Royal Society of South Australia was founded on 10th January 1853 (as the Adelaide Philosophical Society). The Society changed its name to the Royal Society of South Australia when her Majesty Queen Victoria granted the title “Royal” in 1880. In 1928, the Society struck a medal in honour of Sir Joseph Verco. The Verco Medal has since been awarded to members of the Royal Society for distinguished scientific investigations. (Sir Joseph Verco died in 1933.) According to the web page found at

“The (Verco) medal shall be awarded for distinguished scientific work published by a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Australia. It is the highest honour that the Society can bestow on one of its Fellows. Only those who have made a significant, outstanding contribution to their field(s) of study receive the award.”

The first Verco medal was awarded to Professor Walter Howchin in 1929. Medals have since been awarded to people such as J. B. Cleland, Sir Douglas Mawson and Reg Sprigg. Careful deliberation is said to go with each award of the medal so the list of Verco Medallists is said to represent “a most revered, respected and outstanding collection of scientists.” At the Society’s AGM held on Thursday 9th October 2008, Dr Scoresby Shepherd, the eminent SA marine biologist, was presented with the Verco Medal for contributions to science. Bob Baldock ‘roasted’ Scoresby in the lead-up to the presentation. The Society’s President, Mr A. Pring, then presented Scoresby with the Verco Medal and a certificate. I managed to take a mobile phone photo of Scoresby being presented with his medal.

Scoresby Shepherd being presented with the Verco Medal by Royal Society of SA President, Mr A.Pring (taken by Steve Reynolds)

MLSSA members and associates such as Ralph Richardson, James Brook and Janine Baker were there to witness Scoresby receiving his medal. After a lengthy refreshment break, Scoresby gave a PowerPoint presentation to the meeting. (Incidentally, the meeting was actually held in the SA Museum.) Scoresby’s presentation started with a little bit about Sir Joseph Verco himself. The presentation then took us right through Scoresby’s career in marine biology, from when he first started diving in the early 1950s.

Scoresby Shepherd giving his PowerPoint presentation (taken by Steve Reynolds)

Scoresby has been our own Society’s Patron since 1st January 2003. Our first Patron was CJ (John) Glover who died in the early 1990s. We did not have a patron for some 9 years before Scoresby agreed to become our second patron in 2002. Scoresby gave me a little background into our Society’s history a couple of years ago. Prior to becoming the Marine Aquarium Research Institute of Australia (SA Branch) in June 1976, the Marine Life Society of SA had its beginnings as the Underwater Research Group, which was linked to the SA Museum. Scoresby told me that the URG started in the mid-1950s, under the impetus of John Mitchell, Curator of Reptiles at the SA Museum”. Scoresby thinks that the URG first met in a room in Rechabite Chambers in Victoria Square, Adelaide, and later meetings were held in the SA Museum building. Scoresby himself was Secretary of the URG during the early 60s. He says that the group “finally petered out” and had entirely wound down its activities by the early 70s. As mentioned above, the Marine Aquarium Research Institute of Australia (SA Branch) then began in June 1976. Our group changed its name to become the Marine Life Society of South Australia in October 1982. But getting back to Scoresby himself, our Patron is not only a Senior Research Fellow for SARDI Aquatic Sciences and an Honorary Associate at the SA Museum; he is also now a Verco Medallist.

By Steve Reynolds

Steve Reynolds is the current President of MLSSA and is a long-standing member of the Society. Steve is a keen diver, underwater explorer, photographer and is chief author of the Society's extensive back catalogue of newsletters and journals.

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