Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Simpson, Stephen (1793–1869)

by Judith Iltis

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Stephen Simpson (1793-1869), homoeopath and public servant, was baptized on 29 July 1793 at Lichfield, Staffordshire, England. He joined the army as an ensign in 1813 and after service with the 14th Light Dragoons he resigned in 1817 to qualify in medicine and then to travel extensively in Europe as personal physician to a member of the Russian nobility. He became a disciple of Samuel Christian Friedrich Hahnemann, the founder of homoeopathy, and he practised the new science in Rome for a number of years. Returning to England with the Duchess of Sutherland's son, whom he had successfully treated, he tried to set up a practice in London and there he published in 1836 A Practical View of Homoeopathy, Being an Address to British Practitioners, the first English book on the subject. However, because of opposition and ridicule from the medical profession, he abandoned homoeopathy and left for New South Wales after marrying in 1838 Sophia Anne Simpson, a relation to whom he had been engaged for twenty years.

He arrived in Sydney in the Wilmot in January 1840, with a recommendation to Governor Sir George Gipps from the Colonial Office. His wife died shortly after their arrival. Next July he sailed in the Speculator to Moreton Bay, where in May 1841 he was appointed acting colonial surgeon in the absence of Dr David Ballow, but thereafter never practised again. With the end of military government and the removal of Owen Gorman from office in May 1842, Simpson was appointed commissioner of crown lands for Moreton Bay and also acting administrator until the arrival of John Wickham next year. His report to Gipps on Andrew Petrie's excursion north of Moreton Bay contains an account of Davis and David Bracewell, whom he afterwards employed on his property, and in his report on the state of the Aboriginals in the Moreton Bay district on 1 January 1844 he described his expedition into the bunya country with Rev. Christopher Eipper, four mounted policemen and six prisoners in March and April 1843. He sat in the first court of petty sessions in September 1843 and remained a justice of the peace until 1861.

Simpson first lived in one of the empty cottages of the former female penitentiary at Eagle Farm but he later moved to Redbank where John Dunmore Lang reported dining with him in a slab hut. By 1845 he had built a cottage in Goodna, which proved a welcome overnight stop for Benjamin Glennie and others who travelled from Brisbane to Ipswich and the Darling Downs, and J. Watts avowed that Simpson's stud of horses was the best in the colony. From 1851 Simpson made substantial land purchases in this area and there his nephew, J. M. Ommaney, after whom a near-by mountain was named, was killed by a fall from a horse in 1856.

Simpson was appointed a trustee of the Brisbane General Hospital in 1848, a returning officer in the 1851 elections, police magistrate for the Moreton district in 1853. He retired from government office in 1855. In May 1860 he became a life member of the first Legislative Council in the popular interest but attended only once before he left for Sydney in the Yarra Yarra in December and thence in the Jeddo for England. Although his non-attendance was questioned in parliament he was granted leave until September 1864. He died at Portland Square, London, on 11 March 1869.

Stephen Simpson was known as 'the most respected man in the colony'. When Henry Mort asked an Aboriginal 'Who is God?' he received the reply 'Carbon white fellow, like it Doctor Simpson, sit down here'.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 22-23
  • H. S. Russell, The Genesis of Queensland (Syd, 1888), 211, 247
  • E. V. Stevens, ‘Stephen Simpson, M.D., M.L.C.’, Journal (Historical Society of Queensland), vol 5, no 1, 1953, pp 794-803
  • D. Gordon, ‘Men of Medicine at Separation’, Medical Journal of Australia, 7 July 1962, pp 1-10
  • Brisbane Courier, 8 Aug 1846, 3 Jan 1861, 22 May 1869.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Judith Iltis, 'Simpson, Stephen (1793–1869)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/simpson-stephen-2666/text3715, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 29 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

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