Sir Edmund Barton

Edmund Barton

Sir Edmund Barton

A Fellow of the University of Sydney Senate for almost 40 years and recipient of the University of Sydney Medal in Classics, Sir Edmund Barton, Australia’s first prime minister, was one of the University’s most distinguished alumni. A keen cricket player, having played in the University of Sydney cricket team in 1870, Barton was also involved in international cricket’s first ever riot.

Barton enrolled at the University of Sydney in 1865 to complete a Bachelor of Arts in 1868 (just 11 years after the University’s first seven BA graduates) and a Masters of Arts in 1870. He developed a love for Greek and Latin, studying in Classics under Professor Charles Badham, after whom the University’s Badham building and library were named.

After graduating, Barton spent time working for a solicitor and a barrister, and was admitted to the Bar in 1871. Soon after, he had a successful legal practice. Barton was also a first-class cricket empire early in his career, and in February 1879, umpired the second game between New South Wales and the English touring side in the third Test Match at the Sydney Cricket Ground. A controversial decision by the other umpire on the day, George Coulthard, prompted an angry crowd to invade the pitch.

While play was suspended for the rest of the day, Barton’s help in calming down what’s known as the Sydney Riot of 1879 earned him a favourable standing in the public eye, and later that year successfully stood for the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for the University of Sydney constituency. He became the youngest-ever Speaker of the House in 1883 and was a Fellow of University of Sydney Senate from 1880 to 1889 and again from 1892 to 1920. In January 1901 he became Australia's first Prime Minister and was knighted the following year.