Sir Arthur Renwick (1837-1908) Sydney physician, politician and philanthropist

Sir Arthur Renwick FRCS (30 May 1837 – 23 November 1908) was an Australian physician, politician and philanthropist.

Early lifeEdit

Renwick was born in Glasgow, Scotland, the son of George Renwick, a bricklayer, and his wife Christina, née Condie. His parents travelled as bounty immigrants aboard the Helen, arriving in Sydney, Australia on 21 July 1841.[1] Renwick was educated at Redfern Grammar School and was one of the early students of the University of Sydney, where he matriculated in 1853 and graduated B.A. in 1857. Renwick then studied at the University of Edinburgh where he graduated M.B. (1860), M.D. (1861), and F.R.C.S., Edinburgh. Renwick did further courses in Glasgow, London and Paris.[1]

Medical careerEdit

Renwick then returned to Sydney in 1862, living in Redfern[1] 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. In 1868, Renwick married Elizabeth, daughter of Rev. John Saunders, at the Redfern Congregational Church. Renwick also became an examiner in medicine at the University of Sydney, and in 1877 was elected to its senate.[1]

Politician and philanthropistEdit

Renwick attempted to enter the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for the university seat in 1877 but was defeated by Edmond Barton, however Renwick was elected a member for East Sydney in a by-election in 1879.[1] He became Secretary for Mines in the third Parkes 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 ministry from 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. Renwick authored 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 workload 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 donated £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. Renwick 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 was knighted in 1894. His skill for business led to his being placed on the boards of various important financial companies, but his really important work was his philanthropy.

Renwick died at Sydney of heart disease on 23 November 1908, he was survived by his wife, five sons and a daughter.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Martha Rutledge, 'Renwick, Sir Arthur (1837 - 1908)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, MUP, 1976, pp 20-21. Retrieved 8 November 2009
  • Serle, Percival (1949). "Renwick, Arthur". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.
New South Wales Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
Alexander Stuart
Member for East Sydney
Served alongside: Davies/Reid, Greenwood/Parkes, Macintosh/Dangar
Succeeded by
Edmund Barton
George Griffiths
John McElhone
Preceded by
Alfred Fremlin
Francis Wright
Member for Redfern
Served alongside: John Sutherland, Thomas Williamson
Succeeded by
James Farnell
William Schey
William Stephen