Students at the University of Sydney

Early students

Henry Chamberlain Russell

Henry Chamberlain Russell was in the third cohort of students at the University of Sydney between 1856 and 1858, and graduated Bachelor of Arts in 1859.


His early years

Henry Chamberlain Russell was born at West Maitland, NSW, on 17 March 1836, second son of Bourn Russell and his wife Jane.

Henry's father Bourn, who was part-owner and commander of ships on the India, China and South Sea runs, had arrived in Sydney in 1826 and after some whaling ventures opened a store at West Maitland in NSW in 1835. He was elected to the first Legislative Assembly of New South Wales in 1856.

Henry was educated at West Maitland Grammar School.

His student days at the University of Sydney

For some time after leaving school he studied at home; but in 1856 went to the University of Sydney, and was one of the first two who entered when the University year was altered so as to make the terms begin in February. Having in this way one less term than his compeers, he lost the opportunity of competing for scholarships when he entered.

At the end of 1856, however, he obtained first classes in Mathematics and Physics, and received one of the University scholarships for general proficiency.

At the end of the second year (1857), he won 2nd class honours in Mathematics as well as in Chemistry and Experimental Physics, and won the 1858 Deas-Thomson Scholarship for encouragement of Physical Science.

He passed his BA exams which began on 29 November 1858.

The SMH published the top 5 students for each subject on 15 December 1858, with the names in order of merit: Russell came 2nd in Classics, 1st in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy and 1st in Chemistry and Experimental Physics.

Russell graduated Bachelor of Arts from the University on 18 July 1859.

His career

Henry Chamberlain Russell became an astronomer, meteorologist and one of the most eminent men of science in Australia in the nineteenth century.

In 1870 he was appointed to the position of Government Astronomer which he then held for 35 years. Russell was also Australia's first native born Government Meteorologist.

His many achievements included: invention of many instruments including telescope mountings and self-recording meteorological devices; setting up a system of forecasting weather; publishing the 'Physical Geography and Climate of New South Wales'; remeasuring all the principal stars in J F W Herschel's Results of Astronomical Observations at the Cape of Good Hope (London, 1847) and discovering 500 new double stars; becoming the first graduate of the University of Sydney to be elected a fellow of the Royal Society and being a founder of technical education in the colony.

He was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in 1890.

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His membership of Senate

Russell was elected as a Fellow of Senate of the University of Sydney to fill a vacancy between 1875 and 1907.

Senate elected him as Vice-Chancellor from 1891 to 1892.