CHALLIS, John Henry (1809-1880)


CHALLIS, John Henry (1809-1880)
university benefactor
the son of an officer in the army, was born in England in 1809. He came to Sydney in 1829 and entered the office of Marsden and Flower, merchants. In 1842 the firm was reorganized under the name of Flower, Salting and Company, when Challis was admitted as a junior partner. The business became very prosperous, and in 1855 Challis retired and went to England. He visited Australia in 1859 and about this time subscribed £700 for the stained glass window in the Great Hall of the university of Sydney, known as the royal window. Returning to Europe Challis spent much of his time in travelling, and died in France on 28 February 1880 (Aust. Encyc.). He was buried at Folkestone, England. Under his will the whole of his residuary estate was left to the university of Sydney, subject to a tenure until death or re-marriage of his widow, and a provision that the estate should accumulate for five years after such death or re-marriage. In 1890 a sum of about £200,000 was handed to the senate, which 50 years later, partly by increases in value of land and the falling off of annuities, had increased to £376,000. The income from the fund has provided for seven professorships and several lectureships. The bequest, however, meant more than that. When it was made public it created much interest in the university, the senate adopted an extended scheme of teaching, and the government increased the amount of the annual grant by £5000. A portrait of Challis is in the Great Hall of the university, and there is also a marble statue of him.
P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography; H. E. Barff, A Short Historical Account of the University of Sydney; Calendar of the University of Sydney, 1940.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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