Sydney in ten questions

SAM will soon launch a series of short videos on our website by Julia Horne, the University historian, on interesting chapters of Sydney’s history. Here is a taste.
Image of Julia Horne

In 1850, the University’s founders presumed only men would enrol. What had changed by 1882, when the first two women enrolled, and why did many more women begin to populate the student ranks after 1912?

Social inclusion
For more than 150 years the University of Sydney has been grappling with how to bring in more poor students. What were the early initiatives and can the period from 1914 to 1958 be seen as Sydney’s finest hour?

The Sydney Harbour Bridge
In the early 20th century J.J.C. Bradfield, a graduate of engineering at Sydney, championed the idea of a Sydney harbour bridge as a solution to the challenge of urban expansion. In 1924, the University awarded one of its first doctorates to Bradfield for his thesis on suburban railways and a bridge.

Academic freedom
Sydney University academics have long been part of national public debate, sometimes controversially. When George Wood, Challis Professor of History (1891-1928), voiced his opposition to the Boer War, there were calls for disciplinary action to be taken against him.

Sport and the Olympics
Long before the Australian Institute of Sport, Australian universities were important in the creation of Olympians. Who were these early Olympians and how did Sydney nurture their sporting prowess?

A new type of philanthropy
From the beginning, philanthropy was crucial to Sydney as a public university. Three early philanthropists - a bootmaker, a merchant and a pastoralist - believed that giving money to the University was a small investment for the larger public good.

Sydney Vs Oxbridge
Many people think that Sydney was a copy of Oxford and Cambridge. Or did the University’s founders hope to borrow more widely in attempts to create what the founding professor of Classics John Woolley saw as a new scheme “which has not been tried before”?

‘Doc’ Evatt and the UN
In 1945 the External Affairs Minister, Herbert Vere (‘Doc’) Evatt, who was a founding member of the University’s rugby league club and had four degrees from Sydney, helped establish the United Nations and ensure that smaller countries like Australia would be heard on the international stage.

Jessie Street and Equal Rights
The University has produced many social reformers. Jessie Street (BA, 1911) was a feminist who campaigned for women’s rights to economic independence, for married women to be in paid employment, divorce law reform and for equal pay.

Donald Horne and The Lucky Country
In 1964, Donald Horne’s The Lucky Country, a critical re-evaluation of Australian society, was published. Horne honed his skills as a journalist and writer when he was editor of Sydney’s student newspaper Honi Soit in the 1940s. The landmark book was informed by the author’s experience as a student of John Anderson, professor of Philosophy.