Fellows of Senate

Dr Bartholomew O'Brien

Dr Bartholomew O'Brien was one of the original 16 Fellows of Senate, appointed in 1850.


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(1811 - 1870)
MD Glas
Fellow of Senate, 1850 - 1869

His early years

Bartholomew O'Brien was born in London in 1811, the son of a military officer who held a commission in the 6th Dragoon Guards (Royal Irish). He received his medical education in Edinburgh, where he obtained his licences to practise medicine, and at Glasgow University where he obtained the MD degree in 1833.

His career

In August 1837, at the age of twenty-five, Dr O'Brien emigrated to the colony of NSW, settled at Wollongong and practised in the Wollongong and Illawarra districts. In September 1837 he received an appointment as Crown Commissioner of Lands in NSW in the Iliawarra district, and in August 1838 became District Surgeon and then Medical Superintendent at Wollongong.

After spending a considerable time in the Wollongong district, he attended the Governor, Sir Charles Fitzroy, who had been taken ill on one of his excursions. The skill and kindness of the young medical man so favourably impressed the Governor, that he invited Dr O'Brien to come to Sydney.

Dr O'Brien moved to Sydney in 1848, and continued to act as physician to FitzRoy and to FitzRoy's successor, Sir William Denison (Governor-General 1855-1860).

During this period, O'Brien established a thriving private practice in Castlereagh Street in which, for a short time, James Robertson, an Examiner of the Faculty, was a partner. Like Robertson, O'Brien was a member and office bearer of the newly formed Australian Medical Association of which he was Treasurer in 1859 and Vice-President in 1860.

He died on 18 January 1870, at Concord, in his fifty-eighth year, leaving a widow and seven children. The obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald reported that "the disease which carried off Dr O'Brien (softening of the brain, brought on by over-anxiety), first showed itself three years ago. For some time past he forebore practice, and lately had been living at Concord, where he went for change of air".

His membership of Senate

O'Brien's appointment by the Executive Council to the Senate of the University of Sydney may reflect Sir Charles FitzRoy's influence. Since Wentworth's original proposal for inclusion of the emancipist, William Bland, had been blocked, the appointment of O'Brien assured a reasonable representation for the medical profession on the new Senate.

He served as a Fellow of Senate from 1850 to 1869.

From the Sydney Morning Herald, 28 January 1870, NLA Newspapers and the Faculty of Medicine Centenary Book 1883-1983