Students at the University of Sydney

The first 24 students

David Scott Mitchell

David Scott Mitchell was admitted to the University of Sydney in the first cohort of students in 1852, graduating Bachelor of Arts in 1856 and Master of Arts in 1859.


His early life

Son of Dr James Mitchell, physician and industrialist, David Scott Mitchell was born in Sydney in 1836 and educated at St Phillip's Grammar School, Church Hill.

His student days at the University of Sydney

He was 16 when he was admitted to the University of Sydney in the first cohort of students in 1852.

As a first year student in the annual exams held in August 1853, he obtained First class honours in Mathematics and First class honours in Chemistry and Experimental Phyics; and won the Barker Mathematical Scholarship having obtained the highest place in the 1853 annual Mathematics and Physics exams.

However, as a second year student in the August 1854 annual exams, the professors reported that Mitchell had displayed evidence of 'culpable and wilful negligence'. He had handed in a blank examination paper in Physics, and his performance in Classics and Mathematics had been 'by no means equal to his ability'.

As a result, Senate deprived him of the Barker Mathematical Scholarship. He was also summoned to appear before the Provost and Vice-Provost to be formally censured and told that, unless he satisfied them of his regret for his past failure and his resolve for the future, he would not be allowed to compete for any scholarship at the next exams.

He did compete for the Barker Mathematical Scholarship in 1854 which was now open to the competition of all undergraduates who had entered upon their sixth term and had not exceeeded their 7th - and again he won it.

He graduated Bachelor of Arts in 1856, and Master of Arts in 1859.

His career

After graduating from the University of Sydney, Mitchell was admitted to the Bar in 1858. However he never practised; he preferred books and intellectual interests to business or politics. Aided by wealth and leisure, he pursued every document related to Australia (as well as to the Pacific, the East Indies and Antarctica).

When he died in 1907, Mitchell bequeathed his entire collection with an endowment of £70,000 to the Public Library of New South Wales, and his books and papers now form the basis of the Mitchell Library in Sydney.