RENWICK, Sir Arthur (1837-1908)


RENWICK, Sir Arthur (1837-1908)
public man and philanthropist
son of George Renwick, was born at Glasgow on 30 May 1837. He was brought to Sydney as a child and was one of the early students of the university of Sydney, where he graduated B.A. in 1857. Going on to Edinburgh he qualified for the medical profession graduating M.B., M.D., and F.R.C.S. He returned to Sydney, where he established a rapidly growing practice, becoming eventually one of the leading physicians and the first president of the local branch of the British Medical Association. He was elected a member of the legislative assembly for East Sydney in 1879, and became secretary for mines in the third Parkes (q.v.) ministry on 12 October 1881, but lost his seat at the election held in December 1882. He was elected for Redfern in October 1885 and was minister for public instruction in the Jennings (q.v.) ministry front 26 February 1886 to 19 January 1887. In this year he was nominated to the legislative council and was a member for the remainder of his life, though never in office again. As a politician he was one of the earliest to realize the responsibility of the state towards the poor. He was the author of the Benevolent Society's incorporation act, he founded the state children's relief department, and as president of the original committee he had much to do with the bringing in of old-age pensions in New South Wales. In spite of his heavy practice as a physician, he gave much time to Sydney hospital, was its president for 29 years, was also president for about the same period of the Benevolent Society of New South Wales, and he took much interest in the Deaf Dumb and Blind Institution, and the Royal Hospital for Women at Paddington. He became a member of the senate of the university of Sydney in 1877, and was vice-chancellor on several occasions. He was an early advocate for the foundation of a medical school at the university, and in 1877 gave £1000 to found a scholarship in the faculty of medicine. After the medical school was established in 1883 he provided the west stained-glass window in the upper hall of the medical school building. He in fact took the greatest interest in all movements for the welfare of the community, and his ability as an organizer led to his acting as a commissioner for New South Wales for the Melbourne international exhibition in 1880, and in similar positions for exhibitions held at Adelaide, Amsterdam, and Chicago. He died at Sydney on 23 November 1908. He married Elizabeth, daughter of the Rev. John Saunders, who survived him with six sons and a daughter. He was knighted in 1894. His aptitude for business led to his being placed on the boards of various important financial companies, but his really important work was his philanthropy, to which he brought a scholarly mind, much energy, and a far-sighted understanding of what could and should be done for suffering humanity.
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Daily Telegraph, Sydney, 24 November 1908; Calendar of the University of Sydney, 1909; Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, vol. XXXIV, p. 2; Burke's Peerage, etc., 1908.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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