WOOLLEY, John (1816-1866)


WOOLLEY, John (1816-1866)
first principal of the university of Sydney
was born at Petersfield, Hampshire, England, on 28 February 1816. He matriculated at the university of London in 1830, and during the next two years passed every subject he took with first-class honours. He then won an open scholarship at Exeter College, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. in 1836, with a first-class in classics, M.A. in 1839, and D.C.L. in 1844. He was ordained in 1840 and in the same year published An Introduction to Logic. In 1842 he was appointed headmaster of Edward the Sixth's Grammar School, Hereford, and three years later held the same position at Rossall School in Lancashire. His Sermons Preached in the Chapel of Rossall College was published in 1847. He became headmaster of Edward the Sixth's Grammar School, Norwich, in 1849, and in 1852 was appointed principal and professor of classics at the university of Sydney. He arrived there in July, and immediately started making arrangements for the opening of the university. The first matriculation examination was held in October, 24 students were admitted to matriculation, and teaching work began at once. Woolley afterwards added to his duties the teaching of logic. He had an extremely difficult task as principal. Parliament was unsympathetic, students were few in number, and in many cases their preliminary schooling had been inadequate (see Record of the Jubilee Celebrations of the University of Sydney, pp. 31-3). As one of the means of improving this position Woolley took much interest in the Sydney Grammar School, and brought forward a scheme not developed until after his death, of linking the primary education of the colony with the university. In 1862 he published a volume of Lectures Delivered in Australia, some of which had been given at the mechanics' school of arts, Sydney, and similar institutions. He gratuitously held classes at the mechanics' school of arts and endeavoured to expand the classes there into a regular curriculum of studies, and though in 1860 he had to admit the comparative failure of the attempt, after his death much was done in this direction. In 1882, 1100 Pupils were attending classes. (Commemorative address on the celebration of the fiftieth anniversery by (Sir) W. C. Windeyer). In 1865 Woolley had a vacation in England, but on his way back was drowned in the London on 11 January 1866. He married in 1842 Mary Margaret, daughter of Major William Turner (Dict. Nat. Biog.), who survived him with six children. A sum of £2000 was raised by subscription among his friends and presented to his widow.
Woolley was a scholarly and amiable man; a glowing reference to him will be found in J. Sheridan Moore's lecture on The Life and Genius of James Lionel Michael. Barff, in A Short Historical Account of the University of Sydney, speaks highly of his scholarship and enthusiasm, and of the work he did in the forming of the university and the moulding of men's minds throughout the colony. In spite of this Woolley found it almost impossible to make the young university take its proper place in the life of the colony. It was not until several years after his death that the number of students reached 100.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 March 1866; A Catalogue of all Graduates of the University of Oxford, 1851; H. E. Barff, A Short Historical Account of the University of Sydney; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography; British Museum Catalogue.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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