NICHOLSON, Sir Charles (1808-1903)


NICHOLSON, Sir Charles (1808-1903)
speaker first legislative council, New South Wales
was born in England on 23 November 1808 the only son of Charles Nicholson. He was educated at Edinburgh university where he took the degree of M.D. in 1833. He came to Sydney in 1834, practised his profession for some years, and also acquired interests in station property. In 1843 he was elected a member of the first legislative council as one of the representatives of Port Phillip, and sat in this body until 1856. He was elected speaker in 1846 and subsequently was twice re-elected. He took much interest in the founding of the university of Sydney and on 24 December 1850 was appointed a member of the senate. On 3 March 1851 he was unanimously elected vice-provost. He was also elected a member of the library committee which laid the foundations of the present excellent library. At the inauguration ceremony held on 11 October 1852, eloquent addresses were given by Nicholson and the first principal, Dr Woolley (q.v.), which were printed as a pamphlet and may also be found in H. E. Barff's Short Historical Account of the University of Sydney. Nicholson became chancellor in 1854 and held the position until 1862. He was most active in forwarding the interests of the university and in 1857 presented a large and valuable collection of Egyptian, Roman and Etruscan antiquities to it. A catalogue of the collection was published in 1858. A new edition of this catalogue appeared in 1891 with two papers by Nicholson added, "On Some Funeral Hieroglyphic Inscriptions found at Memphis" and "On some Remains of the Disk Worshippers Discovered at Memphis". Between 1856 and 1859 he obtained donations to pay for the stained glass windows of the great hall and himself subscribed £500. When Queensland became a separate colony in 1859 Nicholson was nominated a member of the legislative council, and at the special request of the governor, Sir George Bowen (q.v.), undertook the office of president of the council for the first session of parliament. In 1862 Nicholson returned to England and in 1865 married Sarah Elizabeth Keightley. He never returned to Australia but kept his interest in it, and occasionally contributed papers relating to it to the journals of learned societies. In 1890 he was appointed to represent the interests of the Central Queensland separation league in London, and in connexion with this headed a deputation to Lord Knutsford. He died in England on 8 November 1903 having nearly completed his ninety-fifth year. He was given the honorary degrees of D.C.L. by Oxford, and LL.D. by Cambridge and Edinburgh universities. He was knighted in 1852, and created a baronet in 1859. His eldest son, Charles Nicholson, the second baronet, afterwards became well-known as an ecclesiastical architect.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 November 1903; The Times, 10 November 1903; Who's Who, 1903; H. E. Barff, A Short Historical Account of the University of Sydney; The Lancet, 21 November 1903; Robert A. Dallen, Journal and Proceedings Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. XIX, pp. 213-20.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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