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Sir Edward Charles (Ted) Stirling (1848–1919)

from Advertiser

Sir Edward Charles Stirling, 1898

Sir Edward Charles Stirling, 1898

State Library of South Australia, B 14104/7A

Widespread regret will be caused by the announcement of the death of Sir Edward Charles Stirling, C.M.G., M.A., M.D., D.Sc., F.R.S., F.R.C.S., one of Australia's most distinguished scientists and scholars, His reputation was world-wide, and his career was one of brilliant and ever widening success. He passed away last night at his beautiful home, St. Vigeans, Mount Lofty, after an illness of some weeks, which finally developed into bronchitis. The end came unexpectedly. His condition early in the day gave no cause for immediate alarm, but he gradually grew worse. His death is a loss not only to the State and the Commonwealth, but to the scientific world. He was born 70 years ago at The Ledge, Strathalbyn, and was the son of the late Hon. E. Stirling, and a brother or Sir Lancelot Stirling. His early education was received at St. Peter's College, after which he went to Cambridge, where he graduated at Trinity College in arts, science, and medicine. He took the B.A. degree with honors in natural science in 1860, the M.A. and M.B. degrees in 1872, and the M.D. in 1881. His distinguished work in science and medicine received the recognition of several important bodies. He was a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, and also of the Royal Society. For a time he filled the posts of house surgeon, assistant surgeon, and lecturer in physiology at St. George's Hospital, London. In 1881 he returned to South Australia, where he at once took a leading place in his profession. His work as professor of physiology at the Adelaide University has been widely recognised. He had occupied the Chair since 1900, and he was recognised as a foremost authority on Australian natural history and anthropology. The service he rendered to Australia in the capacity of Director of the National Museum, an office he filled for many years, was suitably acknowledged when he retired from the responsible position in 1913. A beautifully illuminated address was presented to him by the Public Library Board, which stated: -"Your first association with the institution dates back for more than 30 years. You were a member of the board of the South Australian Institute in 1881, and its chairman in 1882, and you became honorary curator of the Museum in 1889, and continued to direct the work of the department in that capacity until 1895, when you were appointed to the position which you are now resigning and which you have held with so much credit to yourself and benefit to the institution. The board, recognising the value of such lengthy service to the institution and the State, desires to assure you that, while your resignation has been accepted with regret, it is glad to learn that you do not propose entirely to sever your connection with the Museum, and that you are prepared to continue to perform certain duties as director in an honorary capacity. The board is relieved to know that the preparations for arranging the specimens in the new building are not to be interfered with, and that under your able direction it may expect in that structure a display which will reflect credit alike on the Museum and yourself." On that occasion the zeal of the professor in obtaining Australian specimens for the Museum was favorably commented on by Professor Henderson and others.

In June, 1917, His Majesty the King conferred on him the honor of knighthood, the distinction of C.M.G. having been given him in 1893. Another Royal honour was a gold medal from the Queen of Holland for service to science. He was a member of the state House of Assembly from 1883 to 1886, and to him belonged the distinction of being the first South Australian legislator to introduce a Bill to extend the franchise to women, a reform that has since been adopted, not in this State alone, but throughout Australia.

At the University, where he was best known, he was held in the highest esteem, not only for his ripe scholarship, but for his real kindness of nature, that many of his fellow students have good cause to remember. He had a warm spot in his heart for animals, and was a member of the society for their protection, succeeding the late Sir Samuel Way as president. His contributions to scientific literature were many and notable. He was Honorary Fellow of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain, fellow of the Medical and Chirurgical Society, and member of the Clinical and Pathological Societies in London. He was connected with a large number of other scientific bodies. In 1899 he was president of the South Australian branch of the British Medical Association, in 1890 president of the Royal Society in South Australia, and was the first president of the State Children's Council. He was anthropologist to the Horn expedition in Central Australia in 1894, and did much valuable work, the results of which are to be found in the Museum. He was president of the Medical Congress in Adelaide in 1905, and other bodies with which at different times he was connected were the Adelaide Hospital Board, the Public Library Board, the Britain Science Guild, and the Zoological Society.

Sir Edward Stirling was a great lover of nature, and his lovely garden at Mount Lofty is one of the show places of the State. It may, indeed, be described as perfect, and he delighted to show it to visitors. He married in 1877 Miss Jane Gilbert, eldest daughter of the late Mr. Joseph Gilbert, of Pewsey Vale. He leaves five daughters—Miss Harriet Adelaide Stirling, Mrs S. Russell-Booth, Mrs. T Brailsford Robertson, Miss Alice Mary Stirling, and Miss Nina Stirling.

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'Stirling, Sir Edward Charles (Ted) (1848–1919)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 May 2024.

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