The Society was founded in 1874 and incorporated in 1884. Successful establishment of the Society was due in large part to the dedication and financial support of its first President, Sir William Macleay (1820-1891). He provided the Society with its original accommodation and staff, set up a library and established the Proceedings (1875). In addition to substantial gifts to the Society during his life, Sir William bequeathed a large sum for the employment of a Research Bacteriologist at the University of Sydney. The first Macleay Bacteriologist was appointed in 1898. From 1955 revenue from the Bacteriology fund has been used as a contribution to the salary of a Linnean Macleay Lecturer in Microbiology. In 1903 a further bequest became available for provision of the annual Linnean Macleay Fellowship. In 1958 Council established the biennial Sir William Macleay Memorial Lecture.
Originally, the Society occupied various offices around the city of Sydney including the Garden Palace, where it fell victim to the disastrous fire of 1882. Macleay then provided more permanent headquarters at Linnean House, Elizabeth Bay, where it remained until 1924. It then moved back to the city at College Street until 1931, to Science House in Gloucester Street until 1976 and to the Science Centre in Clarence Street until 1983. After a number of years at Cliff St., Milsons Point, the Society moved briefly to Bunnerong Road, Matraville in September, 1999 and finally came to its present location at Gardeners Road, Kingsford in September, 2000.
The affairs of the Society are administered by a Council of 18 members, six of whom retire each year but are eligible for re-election. The President, Secretary, Honorary Treasurer and Honorary Editor constitute the Executive Committee.
President: Robert King
Vice-Presidents: Mike Gray, David Keith, David Murray
Honorary Treasurer: Ian Percival
Secretary: Jean-Claude Herremans
Council: Michael Augee, John Barkas, Michele Cotton, Emma Gorrod, Michael Gray, Jean-Claude Herremans, David Keith, Robert King, Helene Martin, David Murray, Peter Myerscough, Ian Percival, John Pickett, Helen Smith, Bruce Welch, Karen Wilson.
Honorary Editor: Michael Augee
Auditors: Phil Williams Carbonara