RUSSELL, Sir Peter Nicol (1816-1905)


RUSSELL, Sir Peter Nicol (1816-1905)
university benefactor
was born at Kirkcaldy, Fifeshire, Scotland, on 4 July 1816. His father, Robert Russell, an engineer and ironfounder, emigrated with his family to Tasmania in 1832, and 10 years later established a foundry and engineering business at Sydney. After the father's death this was carried on under the name of P. N. Russell and Company, and became the largest and most successful business of its kind in Australia. In 1860 P. N. Russell went to London and practically retired, except that he acted as London representative of the business. In 1875 this was closed down, the immediate cause being that certain demands were made by the employees, which the firm felt should not be granted. Russell, however, had prospered with his investments, and was now a rich man. He retained his interest in Australia, paid several visits to it, and in 1896 made a gift of £50,000 to the university of Sydney to found an engineering school. In 1904 he made a second gift of £50,000 to be devoted to the same department, with the proviso that the government should provide £25,000 for buildings.
Russell died at London on 10 July 1905, having just completed his eighty-ninth year. He married in 1859 Charlotte, daughter of Dr Alexander Lorimer. He had no children. He was knighted in 1904. Under his will a total sum of £16,000 was left to various institutions and charities in Sydney. The engineering school at the university of Sydney is known as the Peter Nicol Russell school of engineering, and there are three Peter Nicol Russell scholarships for mechanical engineering, and a medal for research work. His portrait by W. Q. Orchardson, R.A., is in the great hall, and there is a memorial group by Mackennal (q.v.) in the university grounds.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 July 1905; The Times, 12 July and 10 August 1905; Burke's Peerage, etc., 1905; Calendar of the University of Sydney, 1940.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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