give a stronger impulse and a more systematic direction to scientific inquiry; to promote the intercourse of those who cultivate Science in different parts of the British Empire with one another and with foreign philosophers; to obtain more general attention for the objects of Science and the removal of any disadvantages of a public kind that may impede its progress.According to the British Science Association history website, from which that quote was taken, the early annual meetings included the coining of the word 'scientist' and the first demonstration of wireless transmission.
Today the annual meeting is called the British Science Festival and this is one of Europe's largest science festivals. The 2011 meeting is being held from today until Thursday 15th September in Bradford and is well worth a visit.
The IMA website has more about the British Science Festival and a downloadable Mathematical Sciences Programme of Events. The mathematical sciences programme includes talks on statistics in sport, maths magic, maths of waves, prime number sequences and the impact of maths on science and culture, as well as a chance to catch the maths and stats buskers.