The Society was formed in 1822 to pursue the study of natural sciences (at that time called natural philosophy), and to combine the private collections of individual members. In 1828 part of the grounds of St Marys Abbey was given to the Society by royal grant. It built the Yorkshire Museum there in 1829 to house the collections, and also created a botanic garden. An astronomical observatory was later built in the grounds. The Society was instrumental in saving many famous York landmarks from destruction including, among other examples, the Abbey and its grounds, and parts of the city walls. The Tempest Anderson Hall was added to the Museum in 1912 as a bequest of the vulcanologist, Dr Tempest Anderson, to provide adequate facilities for scientific lectures.
In 1961 the Museum and its gardens were handed over to the City of York in trust. After many intervening changes in local government and associated budget constraints an agreement relating to the administration of the new Yorkshire Museum and Gardens Charity was signed in 2009 by the YMAG Trust, the City of York Council and the YPS. The Society thereby maintains a link with its past.
The YPS has been influential in several related fields. The British Association for the Advancement of Science (now the British Science Association) was formed with the Societys help and held its inaugural meeting at the Yorkshire Museum in 1831. The YPS and the BSA have been closely linked ever since, the YPS being now a regional branch of the BSA. In 1889 the Museums Association was co-founded by the then Keeper of the Yorkshire Museum with the support and assistance of the YPS Council. In 1971 the Society joined the Council for British Archaeology in an initiative which led to the formation of the York Archaeological Trust.
For more on the history of the Society see the Bibliography in the Resources section. You can also see, online, the earliest YPS Annual Reports, from 1823 to1859, available to download free from the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL): http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/bibliography/2482#/summary.
As a registered charity the YPS exists to foster and promote the study, particularly among young people, of the natural sciences, archaeology, history and antiquities in Yorkshire and elsewhere. To promote public understanding it provides an annual open lecture programme between October and May, usually focussed on one or two themes, now including subjects in medicine and the social sciences, such as criminal justice. More than twenty lectures are offered, several given jointly with sister organisations such as the Royal Geographical Society, the York Archaeological Trust, PLACE (People, Landscape and Cultural Environment), the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and the Yorkshire branch of the Institute of Physics. Lectures are held in the Tempest Anderson Hall, and one or two lectures are now given annually in other towns in Yorkshire.
Educational visits are offered during the year often to places otherwise inaccessible to individuals. These day trips, or longer visits of up to five days, enable the Society to generate a small profit with which to fund further charitable endeavours.
The YPS also offers modest grants and prizes to aid projects and publications on topics relating to Yorkshire: the Charles Wellbeloved Prize for the best undergraduate archaeology project at the University of York; and the Herman Ramm Fund prize for a postgraduate archaeological or local history research project; other grants are awarded to suitable applicants for their research. The Society also gives an annual sum to support the Yorkshire Museum and provides volunteers for some of its departments, such as the observatory and the library.
The Society publishes the Annual report which all members receive. It contains reports of all YPS activities, its financial statement, and also includes essays, articles and book reviews.