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Eggleston, Sir Frederic William (1875–1954)

Sir Frederic Eggleston, 1941

Sir Frederic Eggleston, 1941

Australian War Memorial, 008405

By the death of Sir Frederic Eggleston last month, in his eightieth year, the University lost one of its early leaders and Australia one of the outstanding men of his generation.

On his return to Australia from Washington in 1946, Eggleston became actively interested in the establishment of the University, was a foundation member of the Interim Council, and took a vigorous part in the establishment and organisation of the Research Schools of Social Sciences and Pacific Studies. The decision to found a chair of Social Philosophy owed more to him than to anyone else.

It was the University's great loss that severe arthritis forced his withdrawal from active participation in its affairs, and virtually immobilised him at his home in Melbourne during his last years. His election to an Honorary Fellowship of University House was an attempt by the University to express how highly it rated his services during its formative period.

Within the limits of space appropriate to the News it is not possible to give an adequate sketch even in outline of Eggleston's many-sided career of active public service at home and abroad. The bare, and impressive, facts are set out in Who's Who. Though he was a solicitor by profession, legal practice never claimed the whole man. For him, legal training and experience was rather the base from which he set out on the undertakings, in scholarship and in public affairs, to which he gave his energies without stint.

Eggleston's powerful mind was at once critical and creative, and though he worked much in discussion with others, his own thought was essentially independent. He was alert to new ideas and new emphases. One of the earliest thinkers, for instance, to see the international future of Australia in the setting of its relations with Asia, he threw himself, in the middle twenties, into the work or the newly established Institute of Pacific Relations. These activities provided a most effective background for his work later as Australian Minister in China and in the United States.

Notwithstanding an active career in public affairs, as Minister of the Crown in Victoria, as first Chairman of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and later as diplomat, Sir Frederic's heart was, at bottom, in the world of scholarship. His dominant interest was in research as applied to the problems of politics, in the broad sense. In 1932 he published an early and significant study, under the title of State Socialism in Victoria, of what has become a common enough study today, the public statutory corporation as a means of the conduct on behalf of Government of a business undertaking. His two most recent books together indicate both the range and the direction of his studies. One was Search for a Social Philosophy (1941). The other was Reflections of an Australian Liberal (1953).

The Australian National University was founded ten years too late for Sir Frederic Eggleston. If it had begun before World War II, he could have been a most distinguished Director of either the Research School of Social Sciences or the Research School of Pacific Studies. All who were associated with him here will remember his work with pride and with affection.

Original publication

Citation details

'Eggleston, Sir Frederic William (1875–1954)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/eggleston-sir-frederic-william-344/text345, accessed 21 September 2017.

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