HUGHES, Sir Walter Watson (1803-1887)


HUGHES, Sir Walter Watson (1803-1887)
founder of the Adelaide university
third son of Thomas Hughes of Fifeshire, Scotland, was born at Pittenweem, Fifeshire, on 22 August 1803. He entered the merchant service and became a master, but emigrated to South Australia in 1841 and took up land. In 1860 the Wallaroo copper-mine was discovered on his property, and in 1861 the even more important Moonta mine was discovered close by. Hughes secured interests in both mines and became wealthy. In October 1872 he joined with Thomas Elder (q.v.) in bearing the expense of the exploring expedition under Colonel Warburton (q.v.), and about the same date offered £20,000 for the endowment of a theological college. It was, however, felt that so large a gift might be better used to found a university, and Hughes agreeing, the Adelaide University Association was established. The act of incorporation of the university of Adelaide was passed in 1874, but practically speaking the university did not begin to operate until three years later. Hughes subsequently returned to England, bought the Fancourt estate at Chertsey, Surrey, and died there on 1 January 1887. He married in 1841 Sophia, daughter of J. H. Richman, who died in 1885. Hughes was knighted in 1880. He has been frequently referred to as the "father" of Adelaide university. The report of the council of the university for the year 1887, in recording their regret at his death, called him "the Founder of the Chair of Classics and of the Chair of English Language and Literature, and Mental and Moral Philosophy—whose munificence led to the establishment of the University".
The Times, 7 January 1887; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography; J. F. Conigrave, South Australia its History and Resources; E. Hodder, The History of South Australia.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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