Early Chemists of Sydney


A review by H.H.G. McKern


Howard McKern majored in organic chemistry, gaining his MSc from the University of New South Wales where in 1960-61 he also served a term as president of the University Chemical Society.  He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute in 1957.  Prior to appointment as Deputy Director of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney, he led the research work in the Chemistry Department of the Museum and published extensively in the fields of phytochemistry and chemotaxonomy.  He has also published in the history of Australian science, including contributions to the Australian Dictionary of Biography.  He has served as President of the Royal Society of New South Wales which in 1968 awarded him the Society’s medal for services to science and to the Society.

Editorial Note:  This project represents the accumulation of many years’ knowledge of chemical history in Sydney.  Not being in a position to continue the research but wishing to make it available to those who can build on it in their own research, Howard McKern approached me in January 2006 for advice on how this could best be done. ‘I should be sad to see this information lost; it is dear to my heart.  Of these pre-1901 chemists, I knew four personally, visited two in their laboratories and knew their world.’  As the Internet is such an essential resource for research, I offered to put the document on my website.  I have made minimal editorial changes to the text and prepared the layout. Scholars are welcome to use this resource with appropriate acknowledgement. - Julian Holland, August 2006


The list which follows is an attempt to record names of, and some references to, chemists active in colonial Sydney; that is, up to and including the year 1900. The term ‘chemist’ is applied to persons whose professional activities lay within one or more of the following fields:


teaching and/or research in chemistry at a tertiary academic institution or scientific establishment;


in private practice as an analytical chemist, assayer and/or consulting chemist;


employed as a chemist by a public authority;


employed as a chemist in the private sector.

The distinction of having been the first to meet the above criteria is commonly accorded James Smith Norrie (1820-1883) who arrived in Sydney in 1840, where, in addition to practising medicine and dentistry, learnt at St. Thomas’ Hospital, London, he set up as an analyst and assayer, applying knowledge and skills gained from studies at King’s College London, and from practical training in the laboratory of John and Jacob Bell.  Jacob was one of the founders of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain; Norrie was an early member of the Chemical Society.

In 1844 he was engaged as a forensic chemist by the Government of New South Wales and was retained in that capacity until 1871 when these commissions were given to Charles Watt (q.v.).  Norrie may thus be also regarded as the first in a long line of Government Analysts, made an official full-time Public Service position in 1883.  Norrie was a man of many parts: in addition to his chemical, medical and dental activities, he gave public lectures in chemistry as well as carrying on a photographic business.

Chemical knowledge in the colony was augmented in 1852 by the arrival of John Smith (1821-1885) to take up the appointment as the first professor of chemistry in the newly established University of Sydney.  His chemistry was acquired at the University of Aberdeen (M.A., M.D.); his life and career as academic, photographer and public figure are well documented.

Norrie and Smith did not long remain the only chemists in Sydney: the establishment of the Sydney Branch of the Royal Mint, which commenced operations in 1855, called for the services of analytical chemists to conduct metallurgical assays, and the names of W.S. Jevons, F.B. Miller, Charles Elouis and Robert Hunt are associated with the Mint’s first years.

Chemistry in Sydney was soon further strengthened by the arrival of four competent chemists: Charles Watt in 1854, who later became Government Analyst for New South Wales; Carl Adolph Leibius, appointed Assistant Assayer to the Mint in 1859 (Senior Assayer, 1870); then, about 1868, William Adam Dixon arrived, and by the early 1870s was in private practice as an analytical chemist, as well as giving private tuition in chemistry in his laboratory, prior to becoming in 1879 the first full-time teacher of chemistry at the Sydney Technical College.  The fourth name is that of Alexander Thomson, qualified in both chemistry and geology, who in 1866 was appointed to assist Professor John Smith at the University of Sydney, but who died prematurely in 1871. A fifth name at this period must be added: that of an Australian-born chemist, Edward Rennie, who taught chemistry during the years 1871-1877 for the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, and who later became Professor of Chemistry at the University of Adelaide; he worked for a short time prior to the Adelaide appointment as Assistant Analyst to Charles Watt, Government Analyst in Sydney.

Until the 1880s the only laboratory of a public authority in Sydney was that of the Mint; however, during the last two decades of the century, four chemical laboratories were established by the Government of New South Wales, which provided full-time employment for chemists: in 1883 for the Government Analyst, Charles Watt, and his staff; in 1887 for the Mines Department with J.C.H. Mingaye as Chief Analyst and Assayer; whilst in the same year J.H. Maiden, later with his colleague H.G. Smith as co-worker, commenced implementing one of the declared functions of the Sydney Technological Museum, that of investigating Australian natural products.  Finally, in 1892, F.B. Guthrie was appointed the first chemist to the Agriculture Department.

These same two decades also saw an increase in the number of analytical chemists, assayers and consulting chemists in private practice.  During the 1870s Dixon and Watt appear to have been the only practitioners succeeding Norrie.  However, the strong surge in mineral exploration and development commencing in that decade, gathering momentum as the century advanced, brought with it the need for analyses and assays for the many small prospecting and mining syndicates typical of the period.  A second factor bringing clients to the private practitioner was the impact of legislation designed to regulate the quality of foodstuffs and medicinal preparations; this legislation further provided for the establishing of a panel of chemists of approved competence, officially designated public analysts.

How complete is the list?  No claim for completeness is made; however, it is believed that few, if any, omissions occur in the first two categories, those of  teachers of chemistry, and of chemists employed by a public authority: good records of both these categories are available. More inquiry will be necessary in establishing a comprehensive overview of the private practitioners; a great deal more to gather information on chemists in private employ.

As to the chemists in private practice: as just mentioned, apparently the only analysts in Sydney during the 1870s were Dixon and Watt; however, by the 1890s well over a dozen were in practice, largely to meet the needs of the very active mineral prospecting and development referred to.  This is illustrated by the letter, jointly signed by eleven private practitioners, addressed to the Minister for Mines, protesting that the Mines Department Chemical Laboratory was unfairly competing against them for work by performing analyses and assays gratis for mining companies, syndicates, mining speculators and mineral traders well able to pay a fee (Town and Country Journal, 13 January 1894, p.9, col.3).

Least comprehensive is the listing of chemists employed in private industry, where records are scattered, incomplete or non-existent.  The few names listed here include T.U. Walton and Thomas Steel at the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and A.J. Dixon (W.A. Dixon’s son) at the Australian Smelting Works, established in 1896 at Dapto.  But who was the first chemist to oversee the manufacture of chemicals, initiated in 1862, by Elliott Brothers Limited at Rozelle? James Frederick Elliott, son of one of the founding brothers, returned to Sydney in 1884 with excellent scientific qualifications gained in London and Berlin, but who preceded him? Did he long remain at the laboratory bench? - by 1912 he was chairman and managing director.

Then again, who were the first chemists employed by the Australian Gas Light Company, which commenced the production of coal gas and its by-products in 1841?  Rosemary Broomham’s history of the Company (First Light: 150 years of gas, Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1987) is devoid of this information, save a passing reference (p.65) to the engaging of Charles Watt in 1861, during his Acting Professorship of Chemistry at the University of Sydney, ‘to test the gas’. Further, the oil-shale industry was flourishing during the period under review, with extensive workings at a number of sites.  Did the companies employ chemists?  Charles Watt was involved at Hartley Vale, and may well have provided the chemical expertise.  Posing such questions indicates how much research must be undertaken before some picture emerges of the extent to which chemists were employed in the industries of colonial Sydney, and indeed, of New South Wales generally.

A further avenue for research, as well as being of considerable value in the compilation of the list, is how and where did some of those recorded acquire their chemical knowledge?  Adequate information is available for most of the more prominent figures, but even here there is a lack: for example, where was Charles Watt trained, and what was his British experience prior to migrating to Australia at the age of 33?  The early assayers at the Sydney Mint are also of interest: three were appointed at a very early age (Jevons, 19; Miller, 25; Hunt, 23).  Jevons had ‘studied scientific subjects’ at University College, London, but left without taking a degree (ADB 4:480); but what of Miller and Hunt, and later, Elouis? Were they trained at the Royal College of Chemistry or the Royal School of Mines in London?

Of interest also is the training of locally born chemists who did not study overseas: such names as those of Doherty and Mingaye spring to mind.  In the absence of definite information, it may be suggested that these two may well have attended classes under W.A. Dixon, with diligent study of textbooks; to this would have been added the knowledge and laboratory skills gained from their daily work at the bench under the instruction of their mentor, Charles Watt, who himself had on two occasions served as Acting Professor of Chemistry at the University of Sydney.

The value claimed for such inquiry into training (and early experience) lies in its affording some added criteria whereby the inclusion of a given name as that of a ‘chemist’ may be justified.  Robert Hunt, for example, became a prominent citizen of Sydney: a senior official at the Mint, a trustee of The Australian Museum, and a member of the Committee of Management which oversaw the inaugural years of the Sydney Technological Museum.  But although listed by Day and Day (see references) as a ‘practical chemist’, what was his chemical knowledge and breadth of laboratory experience? Perusal of the list will reveal a number of cases where training and work are at present obscure.

Finally a word about the geographical concept ‘Sydney’.  Virtually all the names listed are of those active in or close to the city.  However, some latitude has been allowed to include Albert Sach at Goulburn; the early years of W.J. Clunies Ross at Bathurst, and A.J. Dixon’s period at Dapto.

Abbreviations of References


Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne University Press, 1966­

Aust. Encycl.

Australian Encyclopaedia. Sydney: The Grolier Society of Australia, 1965

D. & D.:


A.A. Day and A. F. Day, ‘A Biographical Register of Members of the Australian Philosophical Society (1850-55) and the Philosophical Society of New South Wales (1855-66)’.  Part  I. Royal Society of New South Wales J. & Proc. 117 (1984),119-127; Part  II. 129 (1996) 123-137.


David Branagan and Graham Holland (eds), Ever reaping something new. A science centenary. The Faculty of Science, University of Sydney, 1985.

Le Fèvre


R.J.W. Le Fèvre, ‘The establishment of chemistry in Australia’, in A Century of Scientific Progress. The Centenary Volume of the Royal Society of New South Wales. Sydney: The Society, 1968, pp.332-378. But note the following:


p.339:  ‘The first municipal gasworks .... at Bega around 1885 ...’  The Australian Gas Light Company commenced the production and sale of coal gas in Sydney in 1841.
For Timbrols read Timbrol Limited.


p.358:  Leibius died in 1893, not 1886. ‘.... but neither the Chemical Society .... appears to have published an obituary’. See obituary notice references under the entry for Leibius.


p.365:  ‘In 1871 classes in chemistry had been started by William Adam Dixon, F.I.C., F.C.S. in the School of Arts in Pitt Street.’  The date 1871 is incorrect; Dixon, although giving private tuition in chemistry in his own laboratory during the 1870s, did not commence teaching for the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts until 1877, when he took over from his predecessor, Edward Rennie, who in September of that year left Sydney for further study in London.


p.370:  ‘A Faculty of Science in the University was created in 1879’. For 1879 read 1882: see ERSN


p.373: For J.C.H. Bingaye read J.C.H. Mingaye.


Stanley E. Livingstone, ‘Highlights in the History of the School of Chemistry, The University of New South Wales’, Chemistry in Australia  46 (1979) 471-476.




J.H. Maiden, ‘A contribution to the history of the Royal Society of New South Wales (with information in regard to other New South Wales societies). Royal Society of New South Wales’ J. & Proc. 52 (1918) 215-361.  But note the error on p.291: for Charles Wall read Charles Watt (A.A. Day and A. F. Day 1984 loc. cit. supra, p.120).



J.S. Plowman. A short history of the Government Analyst in New South Wales. Sydney. The division of Analytical Laboratories, New South Wales Department of Health, 1980. Unpublished typescript; copies in the Mitchell Library, with the NSW Department of Health, with the author, and with H.H.G. McKern.

Pub. Anal.


Public Analyst.  From the list of persons appointed to be Analysts for the purposes of the Public Health Act, 1896. New South Wales: Legislative Assembly, Report of the Board of Health for 1897, Department of Public Health of New South Wales, Appendix D, p.30. (Mitchell Library Q614.0991/N) Not all Public Analysts were in private practice; some were in other employ, but their competence for the purposes of the Act (and later, of the Pure Food Act of 1908) was so accredited.



Royal Society of New South Wales
Transactions: vol. 1 (1868)
Transactions & Proceedings: vol. 9 (1875)
Journal & Proceedings: vol.10 (1876)
(Note that the Society’s precursor, The Philosophical Society of New South Wales, published its Transactions 1862-65 in 1866).


Sydney Morning Herald


Early Chemists of Sydney


BAINES, J. Wallace  (? - ?)

Described himself as metallurgist, but subscribed his name among the eleven analysts and assayers in the letter to the Minister for Mines, Town and Country Journal, 13 January 1894, p.9, col.3.


BAYLY, —  (? - ?)

Chief Assayer, Royal Mint’: ref. F.B. Guthrie,  RSNSW  38 (1904) 14.


BENSUSAN, A.J.  (? - ?)  ARSM, FCS

Son of Samuel Levy Bensusan 1828-1918? - RSNSW 52 (1918) 3.  Also described himself as metallurgist, but numbered among the analysts and assayers in the Town and Country Journal letter (loc. cit.).


BYRN, George Alexander  (? - ?)

Demonstrator in chemistry under W.A. Dixon, Lecturer-in-Charge, Sydney Technical College (S.T.C. Calendar, 1894).

Pub. Anal. Address: Technical College Laboratory, Ultimo.

Later partner with Andrew James Dixon (q.v.) in the practice Dixon & Byrn, Analytical & Consulting Chemists.

Ref: Le Fèvre, 365; SMH, 8 November 1917, p.8.


CAMPBELL, Rev. Joseph  (1856 - 1933)  MA, FGS, FCS

Pub. Anal. Address: St Nicolas’ College, Randwick

1882-83: Acted for Professor John Smith, University of Sydney during Smith’s absence overseas.

Biography: David Branagan, ‘Then Look Not Coldly on Science. Joseph Campbell MA Journeyman Cleric’, RSNSW 131 (1998) 19-36; ADB Supplement 1580-1980, p. 63.


CLUNIES ROSS, William John  (1850 - 1914)  BSc (Lond.)

Born in London
1884 (circa): Arrived in Australia

1885:   Appointed by the Board of Technical Education as resident Science Master at Bathurst.

1904:   Appointed Lecturer-in-Charge, Chemistry and Metallurgy, Sydney Technical College.

Ref: ADB, 8.33; RSNSW, 49 (1915) 8-9; Technical Gazette of New South Wales, 1915, Part 2, p.146. Sydney: Minister for Public Instruction, Government Printer, 1915.


COOKSEY, Thomas  (1864 - 1948)  BSc (Lond.), PhD (Marburg), FIC, FACI

1892:   Migrated to Australia; Mineralogist & Chemist, The Australian Museum, Sydney.

1899:   Appointed Second Government Analyst under W.M. Hamlet (q.v.); later (1915) became Government Analyst for New South Wales.

Ref: Aust. Chem. Inst. J. & Proc. 15 (1948) 31; L.G. Clark (1969) in Plowman pp. 11-12; New South Wales: Public Service Lists.


DIXON, Andrew James  (? - ?) FCS

Son of William Adam Dixon (q.v.)

Chemical training: probably at the Sydney Technical College under W.A. Dixon.

Pub. Anal. 1897 address given as Australian Smelting Works, Dapto, NSW (established 1896).

Practised with George Alexander Byrn (q.v.) as Dixon & Byrn, Analytical Chemists.

Ref: SMH, 8 November 1917, p.8 col.3; Le Fèvre, 365.


DIXON, William Adam  (1841-1917)  FIC, FCS

c.1868: Arrived in Sydney. For Dixon’s studies and early years in Scotland, see Le Fèvre, 365.

1870s:  During the 1870s Dixon was established as an analytical chemist, assayer and consultant in his laboratory in Hunter Street, where he also took private students in chemistry.

1877:   In September Dixon commenced teaching chemistry for the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts (not 1871 as stated by Le Fèvre), succeeding E.H. Rennie (q.v.) who left Sydney towards the end of 1877 for studies in London.

1878:   Appointed Lecturer-in-Charge, Chemistry, at the Working Mens’ College, now being referred to as the Sydney Technical College.

1879:   Dixon now full-time Lecturer-in-Charge, Chemistry, Sydney Technical College, in the old Pitt Street premises of the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts.

1882:   Examiner, Faculties of Arts and Science, University of Sydney.

1892:   New Chemical Laboratory of the Sydney Technical College opened at Ultimo.

1896:   Dixon retired from the position of Lecturer-in-Charge.  (Since he was only 55, did he return to private practice?)

1917:   Died 6 November.  He was a foundation director of the North Shore Gas Co., and was chairman from its initiation until about 1912.

Ref: Biog. Reg. 1: 183; RSNSW, 52 (1918) 2 ; 38 (1904) 7; SMH, 8 November 1917, p.8; Town & Country Journal, 14 November 1917, 47; New South Wales: Public Service Lists; Le Fèvre, 365; Livingstone, 471-472; W.A. Dixon,  ‘The Technical College Chemical Laboratory’, The Australian Technical J. of Science, Art and Technology 1 (1897) 154-156; J. & Proc. Royal Institute of Chemistry, 1917-1918, 25.


DOHERTY, William Michael  (1865 - ?)

Early to mid-1880s: assistant to Charles Watt (q.v.)

1885: Appointed Second Government Analyst under Hamlet (q.v.)

1929: Appointed Government Analyst; retired 1930.

Ref: New South Wales: Public Service Lists; Plowman, 13-15; Howard McKern, William Mogford Hamlet 1850-1931: gentleman and scholar. Sydney: Howard McKern, 1995, pp. 24, 28, 29, 30, 35.


DOUGALL, S.S.  (? - ?)

Analytical chemist.

Ref: Town and Country Journal, 13 January 1894, p.9, col.3


ELLIOTT, James Frederick  (1858 - 1928)

Born in Sydney.  Studied chemistry in London, and in Berlin under Professor Hofmann.  Graduated PhD at Albert Ludwigs University, Freiburg.  Taught chemistry under Hofmann.
1884: returned to Sydney to work as a chemist for ElIiott Brothers.
Ref: ADB, 8, 431


ELOUIS, Charles   (? - 1911)

Superintendent of the Bullion Office, Royal Mint, Sydney Branch, 1868 - 1878. (Pub. Anal.)
13 June 1856: elected member, Philosophical Society of NSW. (D. & D. 1 , 124)
Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences: information sheet on the Sydney Mint


FOSS, Ambrose  (c.1803 - 1862)

Born in England.  ‘Chemist, druggist, dental surgeon’ - D. & D. 1, 124.

Perhaps pharmacist, not chemist.


GREIG, William Arthur  (1871 - ?)

1896:   Assistant Analyst & Assayer, Chemical Laboratory, Geological Survey of NSW, Department of Mines.

1924:   Senior Assistant Analyst & Assayer.

1928:   Chief Analyst & Assayer, succeeding H.P. White (q.v.).

Ref: Aust. Chem. Inst. J. & Proc. 4 (1937) 374; New South Wales: Public Service Lists.


GUTHRIE, Frederick Bickell  (1861-1927) FIC, FCS

Educated University College, London and University of Marburg under Professor Zincke.

1882:   Demonstrator in chemistry, Queen’s College, Cork, Ireland.

1888:   Demonstrator in chemistry, Royal College of Science, London.

1890:   Arrived in Australia; became Demonstrator in chemistry under Liversidge, University of Sydney.

1892:   Appointed Chemist, NSW Department of Agriculture.

1896-7: Acting Professor of Chemistry, University of Sydney (also 1904-5; 1908-9).

Ref: ADB 9: 143; RSNSW  61 (1927) 12-14; New South Wales: Public Service Lists.


HAMLET, William Mogford  (1850-1931)

1884:   Arrived in Sydney from England, lectured in chemistry for the NSW Board of Technical Education.

1885:   Appointed Assistant Analytical Chemist under Charles Watt, Government Analyst for NSW Health Department.

1887:   Appointed Government Analyst on Watt’s retirement.

1915:   Retired from the Public Service; in 1919 commenced in private practice as an analyst.

Biography: Howard McKern: William Mogford Hamlet, 1850-1931 gentleman and scholar. Sydney: Howard McKern, 1995.

Ref:  SMH, 19 November 1931; RSNSW 65 (1932) 10; Biog. Reg. 1, 298; New South Wales: Public Service Lists; ADB Supplement 1580-1980, 163.


HARDING, H.A.  (? - ?)

Analytical and consulting chemist in private practice (prior to 1900?).


HARKER, George  (? - ?)  DSc (Lond.)

1898: Demonstrator in chemistry under Professor Archibald Liversidge, University of Sydney.

Ref: ERSN 43, 45


HARTUNG, Max, Dr. (? - ?)

Assistant to Charles Watt (q.v.)

Ref: F.B. Guthrie, RSNSW 38 (1904) 11


HELMS, Charles Henry Albert (? - 1907)  MA, PhD (Berlin)

Pub. Anal. Address given as 8 Bridge Street, Sydney. Demonstrator in chemistry, University of Sydney, 1880.  Died 28 May 1907.

Ref: Argus (Melbourne) 30 May 1907, p.5 (obituary); Town & Country Journal, 26 September 1891, p.41.


HODGSON, Charles J. (? - ?)


13 June 1856: elected member, Philosophical Society of NSW, address given as ‘George Street’.

Ref: D. & D. 1: 125


HUNT, Robert  (1830 - 1892)

‘Appointed practical chemist and first clerk of the Bullion Office, Royal Branch Mint, Sydney, 9.7.1853’ - D. & D. 1: 126.

Ref: RSNSW  27 (1893) 4; Town & Country Journal, 8 October 1892, p.29; Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences: information sheet on the Sydney Mint.

(Note: Hunt was one of the three members of the Committee of Management, appointed in 1880 from the members of the Trustees of The Australian Museum, to oversee the establishing and early management of the Sydney Technological Museum, now the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.)


JANITZKY, Edward  (? - ?)

Appointed 1 January, 1884, as Assistant to Charles Watt (q.v.), NSW Government Analyst, on the same day as J.C.H. Mingaye (q.v.) was also appointed Assistant (NSW Government Blue Book for 1884).  Janitzky’s name does not appear in any subsequent Lists.

Ref: F.B. Guthrie,  RSNSW  38 (1904) 11.


JEVONS, William Stanley  (1835 - 1881)

1852:   Entered University College, London, where he studied mainly scientific subjects. Left without taking a degree.

1854:   Assayer, Sydney Branch of The Royal Mint.

1856:   Elected member, Philosophical Society of NSW.

1859:   Left Sydney for the United Kingdom.

Ref:  Aust. Encycl. 5: 132: ADB 4: 480; D.&D.1: 126; Le Fèvre 358.


KOTTMANN, Gustav  (? - ?)

Sugar beet chemist from Berlin; worked with T.U. Walton, Colonial Sugar Refining Company: (see ADB 12:376, entry on Walton).  According to Technology in Australia 1788-1988 (the Lindesay Clark Memorial Volume published by The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Melbourne, 1988, p.638) Dr Kottmann was engaged as a research chemist by the CSR Co. in 1883; he appears to have worked as a chemical engineer as well as chemist, and much away from Sydney at the CSR mills.


LEIBIUS, Dr Carl Adolph  (1833 - 1893)  FCS (1879), MA (Syd.) ad eundem graduum (1882)

Studied analytical chemistry and assaying under Professor A.W. Hofmann, Royal College of Chemistry, London.

1859:   Assistant Assayer, Sydney Branch of the Royal Mint, Sydney.

1870:   Senior Assayer, Sydney Branch of the Royal Mint, Sydney.

1859:   Elected member, Philosophical Society of NSW (later Royal Society of NSW). Served on Council 1864-65. Read six papers 1860-72; for their titles see J.H. Maiden, Roy. Soc. of NSW J. & Proc. 52 (1918) 286, 299, 324, 332. The paper on osmium and iridium was published in Trans. Philos. Soc. NSW (1862-65) 210-245; the remainder in Roy Soc. of NSW Trans., volume 1 of which appeared in 1868.

Ref: SMH, 20 June 1893; RSNSW 28 (1894) 36; J. Chem. Soc. 65 (1894) 388; ADB 5: 79; D.&D. 1: 127.


LEIPNER, — (? - ?)

Assistant to Charles Watt (q.v.)

F. B. Guthrie,  RSNSW 38 (1904) 11.


LIPPMANN, Julius  (c1821 - 1873)

Pub. Anal.

13 June 1856: elected member, Philosophical Society of NSW, his address being recorded as ‘Stearin Works, Dixon-Street, Sydney’.

‘Soap manufacturer’ (D. & D. 2: 124)


LIVERSIDGE, Archibald  (1847 - 1927)

1872:   Reader in Geology and Mineralogy and Demonstrator in Practical Chemistry, University of Sydney.

1872:   Professor of Geology and Mineralogy.

1881:   Chair re-named Chemistry and Mineralogy.

1891:   Chair re-named Chemistry.

Ref: Aust. Encycl. 5: 343; RSNSW  62 (1928) 8-10; ADB 5.93; ERSN 38-40; Roy. Aust. Chem. Inst. J. & Proc. 23 (1957) 415.


McCARTHUR, Leslie M.  (? - ?)  FCS

Assayer, Town and Country Journal, 13 January, 1894, p.9, col.3


McCUTCHEON, John Warner  (? - ?)

1 October 1870: Appointed Assayer, Sydney Branch of the Royal Mint

1 July 1874: Elected member, Royal Society of NSW (Maiden, 337)


MACMILLAN, James Laker  (? - ?)  FCS

Pub. Anal. Address given as 17 Clarence Street, Sydney.


MAIDEN, Joseph Henry  (1859 - 1925)  FRS

         Although Maiden’s scientific fame rests chiefly on his botanical researches, his publications over the period 1887-1896 record a considerable corpus of pioneering Australian phytochemistry; he was, inter alia, a Fellow of the Chemical Society in London.  Apart from one paper published in the Society’s Journal (1889), his chemical investigations are otherwise to be found recorded in the J. & Proc. of the Royal Society of NSW and in the Proc. of the Linnean Society of NSW.  In some of these papers, H.G. Smith (q.v.) was a co-author.

Biography: Lionel Gilbert, The Little Giant: the life and work of Joseph Henry Maiden, 1859-1925. Armidale: Kardoorair Press Pty. Ltd., 2001

Ref: Linnean Soc. of NSW Proc. 51 (1926) iv-v;   A.H.S. Lucas, ‘Joseph Henry Maiden 1859-1925’, Linnean Soc. of NSW Proc. 55 (1930) 355-370 (including list of Maiden’s publications, pp.365-370); RSNSW 60 (1926) 4-7; Aust. Encycl. 5: 463; ADB 10: 381; New South Wales: Public Service Lists; Jack Willis, From palace to power house. The first one hundred years of the Sydney Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. Sydney, 1982, pp.27-73. Unpublished typescript; bound copies with the Museum Library, the author and with H.H.G. McKern.


MILLER, Francis Bowyer  (c 1829 - 1887)  FCS

1854:   Appointed Assayer, Sydney Branch of the Royal Mint.

1859:   Elected 16 November member of the Philosophical Society of NSW (after 1866, the Royal Soc. of NSW).  He read two papers to the Society: 18 July, 1860, ‘On the detection of Spurious Gold’, and on 1 December, 1869, ‘On the refining of Gold by means of Chlorine Gas’.  Served on the Council of the Society, 1862, 1863 and 1866.

Ref: RSNSW 22 (1888) 6-7; Maiden 283, 285, 324; D. & D., 2, 126.


MINGAYE, John Charles Henderson  (1859 - 1958)

Early 1880s: Assistant to Charles Watt (q.v.) in his Parramatta Laboratory.

1886:   Assistant Analytical Chemist under Charles Watt, now NSW Government Analyst.

1887:   Assayer, Chemical Laboratory, Geological Survey Branch, Mines Department of NSW.

1924:   Retired as Chief Analyst & Assayer.

Published papers in the J. & Proc. of the Royal Society of NSW; most of his chemical work is recorded throughout NSW Mines Department publications.  After 1924 became chemist for the Ammonia Company of Australia at Clyde, NSW.

Ref: Howard McKern, William Mogford Hamlet 1850-1931, gentleman and scholar, Sydney: Howard McKern, 1995, pp.19, 20, 28; New South Wales: Blue Books/Public Service Lists; F.B. Guthrie,  RSNSW 38 (1904) 12-13.


NORRIE, James Smith  (1820 - 1883)

Born in London. Studied medicine, St. Thomas’ Hospital, London; science and principles of analytical chemistry, King’s College; London.  Further chemical training in the laboratory of John and Jacob Bell, London.  Jacob was one of the founders of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain; Norrie was an early member of the Chemical Society.

1840:   Arrived in Sydney. Set up as analyst and assayer; established a business as a druggist.

1844:   Engaged by the Government in forensic work until 1871 when Charles Watt (q.v.) was retained.

1845:   Gave public lectures in chemistry.

            Norrie also practised medicine and dentistry, and set up as a photographer and supplier of photographic materials.

Ref: F.B. Guthrie, RSNSW 38 (1904) 8-10; D.J. Collins, Historical Records of Australian Science 13(2) December 2000, 140-143; Plowman; D. & D.: 2: 123-137

SMH:  Advertisements: 30 June 1845, 3; 7 July 1845, 3; 14 July 1845, 3; 21 July 1845, 2; 15 Sept 1846, 2; 22 Sept 1846, 1; 23 July 1846 [1849?], 1; 20 Oct 1849, 4; 1 Jan 1850, 1; 6 Jan 1851, 3;(two advertisements); 14 Jan 1851, 3; 8 Feb 1851, 14 (two advertisements); 14 April 1860, 14; 6 April 1861, 9.


NORRIE, T.H.  (? - ?)

Son of James Smith Norrie (q.v.)

‘Chemist to the Customs Department’ -  F.B. Guthrie, RSNSW 38 (1904) 8, 14.


ORR, Alexander  (? - ?)

Pub. Anal. Address: 109 Pitt Street, Sydney.

Town & Country Journal, 13 January 1894 p.9, col.3.


PENTECOST, —  (? - ?)

Livingstone, 471

A ‘Mr Pentecost’ was referred to by Livingstone as replacing Edward Henry Rennie (q.v.) in 1875 as teacher of chemistry at the Sydney Mechanics’  Scrool of Arts, and ‘who continued until September, 1877, when he resigned for personal reasons’. (But note that in 1877 W.A. Dixon (q.v.) commenced teaching at The School of Arts.)


PETRIE, James Mathew  (c1873 - 1927)  BSc (Edinb.), Dsc (Syd.), FIC

RSNSW 61 (1927) 15-16 (where Matthew is so spelled); Biog. Reg. 2: 175 (where Matthew is so spelled); Med. J. Aust. 1 (1927) 769; ERSN 43 (where Matthew is so spelled); SMH, 31 March 1927, p.12.


RENNIE, Edward Henry  (1852 - 1927) BA (Syd.), MA (Syd.), DSc (Lond.)

1870:   BA, University of Sydney.

During the 1870s: lectured on chemistry at the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, with Professor John Smith as Examiner.

1876:   MA, University of Sydney.

1877:   Left Sydney for London.

1879:   BSc (Lond.); 1882: DSc (Lond.).

1883-4:Assistant Analyst to Charles Watt (q.v.), NSW Government Analyst, Sydney.

1885:   Left Sydney to take up appointment as Angas Professor of Chemistry, University of Adelaide.

Ref: Royal Soc. of South Australia. Transactions 51 (1927) 425; Aust. Encycl 7: 405; ADB 11: 361; ERSN 36; Livingstone, 471.


ROBERTS, William F.  (? - ?)

Assayer and analyst.

Town & Country Journal, 13 January 1894, p.9, col.3.


ROSS, Herbert E.  (? - ?)

Assayer and analyst.

Town & Country Journal, 13 January 1894, p.9, col.3.


ROW, —  (? - ?)

In the SMH of 3 July 1847, p.1, col.5, a Mr. T.S. Hall, Surgeon Dentist, advises prospective patients that he may be found at 33 King Street at ‘The private entrance to Mr. Row’s Chemical Establishment’.

Who was Mr. Row, and what was his ‘Chemical Establishment’?

Was he a chemist, was he a pharmacist, or did he supply chemicals?


SACH, Albert J.  (? - ?)

Technical College, Goulburn. Teacher of chemistry?  Member, Royal Society of NSW. Active prior to 1901?  He was one of the signatories to the illuminated address presented to William M. Hamlet, Government Analyst for NSW, on his retirement in May 1915.


SCHOFIELD, James Alexander   (1869 - 1934)

1892:   Demonstrator in chemistry, University of Sydney; Lecturer, 1899; later                         Assistant Professor of Chemistry under Liversidge (q.v.), University of Sydney.

Pub. Anal. Address given as The University of Sydney.

Ref: Aust. Chem. Inst. J. & Proc. 1 (1934) 69; Biog. Reg. 2: 245; ERSN 42.


SHARP, Rev. W. Hey   (? - ?)

Warden of St. Paul’s College, University of Sydney. ‘.... a chemist’ - D.F. Branagan, Roy. Soc. of NSW J. & Proc. 131 (1998) 21.


SMITH, Henry George   (1852 - 1924)

1883:   Arrived in Sydney.

1890:   Appointed Laboratory Assistant, Sydney Technological Museum under J. H. Maiden (q.v.).

1895:   Appointed Mineralogist, Sydney Technological Museum.

1898:   Appointed Lecturer in Organic Chemistry, Sydney Technical College.

1899:   Appointed Assistant Curator and Economic Chemist, Sydney Technological Museum.

Ref: ADB 11: 646; Aust. Encycl. 8: 149

For other numerous biographies, obituary notices and relevant references, see the bibliography prepared for the ADB.


SMITH, John, Professor  (1821 - 1885)  MA, MD (Aberdeen); Hon. LLD (Aberdeen), CMG

Arrived in Sydney, 1852.

Ref: Roy MacLeod (ed.), University and Community in Nineteenth Century Sydney: Professor John Smith 1821-1885. The University of Sydney, 1988; Aust. Encycl. 8: 152-153; ADB  6: 148; RSNSW  20 (1886) 1-6; ERSN 33-38; Le Fèvre 341-364; D. & D. 2, 132; D.J. Collins, Historical Records of Australian Science, 13 (2) December 2000, p.137 et seq.


SMITH, John McGarvie  (1844 - 1918)

Assayer and metallurgist.

Ref: Town & Country Journal, 13 January, 1894, p.9, col.3); ADB 11: 652; Ursula M.L. Bygott,  A history of the McGarvie Smith Institute, 1918-1932, Sydney: University of Sydney Monographs, Number Eight, 1993. [N.S.W. State Library  N636.0890994]


STEEL, Thomas  (1858 - 1925) FCS, FLS (Lond.)

Chemist and naturalist.

1882:   Recruited from Scotland by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.

1882-1892::Worked as a chemist at various CSR Co. sugar mills,  Murwillumbah, Fiji, Auckland, Sydney and Melbourne.

1918:   Worked as a chemist under T.U. Walton (q.v.) at the CSR Co. Head Office, Sydney.

Ref: Aust. Encycl. 8: 279-280;  ADB  12: 59.


THOMSON, Alexander Morrison  (1841 - 1871)  DSc (Lond.)

1866:   Appointed Demonstrator in Practical Chemistry and Reader in Geology and Mineralogy, University of Sydney.

1870:   Promoted to Professor of Geology and Mineralogy.

1871:   Premature death.

Ref:  ADB 6, 268; ERSN 34, 121 et seq.; Le Fèvre, 355.


WALKER, C. (? - 1936)

1900:  Junior Demonstrator in chemistry under Liversidge (q.v.). Any activities prior to 1900?

Ref: Aust. Chem. Inst. J. & Proc. 3 (1936) 236


WALTON, Thomas Utrick  (1852 - 1917)  BSc (Glasgow), FIC, FCS

1881:   Chief Chemist, Colonial Sugar Refining Company, Sydney.

1903:   Secretary, Sydney Section, Society of Chemical Industry.

Ref:  ADB 12, 376; SMH, 2 February 1917; Inst. Chem. of Great Britain & Ireland, Proc. (1917) 17; International Sugar J., July, 1917, 320


WAIN, W.C. (? - ?)  FCS

‘The Chemical Laboratory, Explosives Department is under the charge of Mr. W.C. Wain, F.C.S.’ - F.B. Guthrie, RSNSW, 38 (1904) 14.


WATT, Charles  (1821 - 1899)

1854:   Left England to migrate to Australia.  ‘On his arrival in [from?] the mother colony, he became interested in the manufacture of soap and candles, and afterwards, in the distillation of the shales found at Hartley Vale on the Blue Mountains.’ - Hamlet, RSNSW 34 (1900) 2.

1859:   Elected member, Philosophical Society of NSW (13 July).

1860-62: 1871: Acting Professor of Chemistry and Experimental Physics, University of Sydney, vide Professor John Smith (Le Fèvre, 348-349; ERSN, 40). 1861: engaged by the Australian Gas Light Company for gas testing.

1870:   ‘He practised as an analyst in Sydney from 1870.’ - Hamlet, loc.cit.

1871:   Appointed Analytical Chemist (1 September) under the Inspector-general of Police, NSW Colonial Secretary’s Office, and on 6 September appointed Inspector of Kerosene for the Colony, also under the Office of the Colonial Secretary, at a retainer of £150 p.a. These were not full-time appointments; he performed Government work as part of his private practice.

1875:   Together with James Walter Fell, of the Kerosene (shale) Works, Botany, established the North Shore Gas Company Limited which commenced production in 1877. William Adam Dixon was a co­director.

1883:   Appointed as a full-time Civil Servant as Analytical Chemist under the Colonial Secretary at a salary of £500 p.a., and also Inspector of Kerosene for the Colony.

1884:   Watt is still designated Analytical Chemist, but received two Assistants, Edward Janitzky (q.v.) and John Charles Henderson Mingaye (q.v.), each at a salary of £175 p.a.

1885:   Watt is now officially designated Government Analyst and Inspector of Kerosene (New South Wales Government: Blue Book 1885, p.2199).

1885:   On 1 January Watt received William Mogford Hamlet (q.v.) as Assistant Analytical Chemist at £320 p.a., and replacing Edward  Henry Rennie (q.v.). Mingaye is also listed as Assistant Analytical Chemist, but at £195 p.a.; Janitzky is no longer listed.

1886:   Watt retired.

1899:   Watt killed by a fall from his horse.

Ref: Plowman, pp.8-9;  RSNSW 34 (1900) 2; 38 (1904) 10-11; Howard McKern, William Mogford Hamlet 1850-1931, gentleman and scholar, Howard McKern, Sydney, 1995, pp. 18-20, 26, 28; Le Fèvre 348-349; New South Wales: Blue Books/Public Service Lists; David J. Collins, Historical Records of Australian Science, 13(2) December 2000, p.42.


WATT, Francis (Frank) S. (? - ?)

Son of Charles Watt (q.v.) and brother of John Alexander Watt (q.v.)

Ref: Town & Country Journal, 13 January 1894, p. 9, col.3.


WATT, John Alexander  (1868 - 1958) BSc, BA, MA (Syd.); MB, BS, MRCS, LRCP (Lond.)

Son of Charles Watt (q.v.) and brother of Francis S. Watt (q.v.)

Ref: Town & Country Journal, 13 January 1894, p. 9, col.3; D.F. Branagan in S.R. Morton and D.J. Mulvaney (eds), Exploring Central Australia: Society, The Environment and the 1894 Horn Expedition, Surrey  Beatty & Sons, Chipping Norton, 1996, pp.42-58.


WHITE, Harold Pogson  (1863 - 1942)

Professional training: Royal School of Mines, London (later incorporated into Imperial College); Leipzig University.

1888:   Returned to Australia; appointed Assistant Analyst and Assayer, Chemical Laboratory, Geological Survey Branch, NSW Mines Department; later, Senior Assistant Analyst and Assayer.

1924:   Chief Analyst and Assayer.

1928:   Retired from NSW Public Service; then worked for some time at Mashman’s Pottery, Chatswood.

Ref:  F.B. Guthrie,  RSNSW 38 (1904) 13; New South Wales: Public Service Lists; Some of the above information from his grand-daughter, Mrs Elizabeth M. Plimer, Canberra.


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Web page constructed August 2006