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Henry Martyn Andrew (1845–1888)

by G. C. Fendley

This article was published:

Henry Andrew, by Johnstone O'Shannessy & Co, c.1879

Henry Andrew, by Johnstone O'Shannessy & Co, c.1879

University of Melbourne Archives, 11343/​62754

Henry Martyn Andrew (1845-1888), headmaster and professor, was born on 3 January 1845 at Bridgnorth, Shropshire, England, the second son of Matthew Andrew, Wesleyan minister, and his wife Louisa, née Job. The family moved to Hyde near Manchester, where factory engines inspired Henry at 7 with engineering ambitions, to Cornwall and to France and in 1857 to Melbourne. His father had arrived in Melbourne in 1853, resigned from the ministry, and became a produce merchant. After three years at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School where John Bromby's teaching was distinguishing the school in mathematics, Henry matriculated in the University of Melbourne in March 1861. He studied all the university could offer in mathematics and physics under William Wilson, whom he greatly admired, and chemistry, zoology and geology under (Sir) Frederick McCoy. He graduated (B.A., 1864) with second-class honours, no first being awarded that year, and with the university scholarship in the school of mathematics and physics. He intended to be an engineer but was soon discouraged. Employment seemed doubtful in a profession with an apprenticeship tradition and small regard for university training, while the university course, with no practical work, seemed to Andrew incomplete. In 1863 he had passed the subjects of surveying and 'Drawing and Mapping', part of a three-year course leading to the certificate of Civil Engineering. This course which began in 1861, the first in engineering at an Australian university, comprised subjects taught by a part-time lecturer in civil engineering and the mathematics, physics and 'natural sciences' of the arts course. In July 1864 Andrew became lecturer in civil engineering, the first Melbourne graduate to teach at the university. His subject was surveying. His students were few: in 1866 he had only one.  

In 1864 Andrew passed the first year of the medical course with subjects required in arts, but preferred to work under Robert Ellery at the Melbourne observatory for nearly two years with thoughts of becoming an astronomer. Early in 1866 he became resident master at the foundation of Wesley College in Melbourne, and was in charge until the headmaster arrived late in February. Andrew taught mathematics and gave 'elementary lectures in Physical Science, Chemistry, Geology and Natural History'. In June 1868 he resigned from Wesley and his lectureship and in October entered St John's College, Cambridge. Prizes and scholarships made his education possible, though his savings as a schoolmaster were barely sufficient for his Cambridge years. He became second foundation scholar of the college and Wright prizeman in 1870. In college examinations he was placed in the first class with a future senior wrangler and a sixth wrangler, but in his final term was so ill that he had to be supported in the examination room; he graduated twenty-seventh wrangler in January 1872. Disappointed by not being elected a fellow at Cambridge he became professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester. On the invitation of Martin Irving, headmaster of Wesley College, he returned as second master in February 1873. When Irving resigned he became headmaster in December 1875.

Numbers declined at Wesley under Andrew as the corporate schools felt the competition of private ventures, and after 1878 were affected by an economic depression. Andrew resisted parental impatience with classics and mathematics but encouraged natural science; he opened the school's first laboratory in January 1879 and regularly lectured and demonstrated experiments in chemistry to the sixth form. Andrew was pleased with games but their strenuous encouragement lay in the future. He created prefects in 1876 and declared his model to be a 'modern English Public School'. However, his reputation as a headmaster has suffered unduly through comparison with his predecessor; the pre-eminence of Wesley boys at public examinations in Irving's time has not been repeated by a Victorian school and the peak in numbers of 1873 was not reached again at Wesley until 1900.

With Irving and Alexander Morrison of Scotch College Andrew led a forceful group of schoolmasters in the Senate and later in the Council of the University of Melbourne. Bent on reform, they triumphed in 1881 by the acceptance of a group of science subjects for the matriculation examination, by provision for an honours standard which helped the development of sixth forms of older boys, and by the founding in 1882 of a chair in English, French and German, and chairs in engineering, chemistry and natural philosophy. The new chairs were not advertised in Britain but filled by local men. Andrew was elected to the university council in January 1878. Appointed lecturer in November 1881, he became professor of natural philosophy twelve months later. He resigned from the council when his appointment to the chair was being considered, was re-elected in February 1883 but resigned again in 1884, aware of the disquiet caused by the presence of professors on the council. A colleague, William Charles Kernot, thought him 'morbidly conscientious' as a university teacher. Andrew designed new laboratories and was inventive in devising apparatus but began to worry about his isolation from overseas developments, especially after the arrival of new professors in chemistry in 1886 and biology in 1887. His health, uncertain since childhood, gave way after 1886; his temperament, always excitable, became 'low and nervous' and he died, apparently of heart disease, near Aden on 18 September 1888 on his way to England to recuperate and to study new experimental techniques. He was buried at sea.

Andrew was foundation commanding officer of the Melbourne University Volunteer Corps, a member of the council of the Royal Society of Victoria and of the assembly of the Church of England in Victoria and a president of the Melbourne University Union. He published a paper on 'Brain Waves', and with F. J. Pirani edited an edition of the first three books of Euclid. In January 1881 he had married Mary Constance Fischer, née Dredge; they had two sons, Frank Carl Frederic and Hugh Kenneth Henry.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Nye (ed), The History of Wesley College 1865-1919 (Melb, 1921)
  • G. Blainey et al, Wesley College: The First Hundred Years (Melb, 1967)
  • W. C. K., 'In Memoriam: Henry Martyn Andrew', Melbourne University Review, vol 4, no 3, 16 Nov 1888, pp 171-75
  • Spectator (Melbourne), 15 May 1875
  • Argus (Melbourne), 10 Oct 1888
  • Headmasters' reports, 1866-81 (Wesley College, Melbourne)
  • Senate and council minutes, 1873-85 (University of Melbourne Archives).

Citation details

G. C. Fendley, 'Andrew, Henry Martyn (1845–1888)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Henry Andrew, by Johnstone O'Shannessy & Co, c.1879

Henry Andrew, by Johnstone O'Shannessy & Co, c.1879

University of Melbourne Archives, 11343/​62754

Life Summary [details]


3 January, 1845
Bridgnorth, Shropshire, England


18 September, 1888 (aged 43)
near Aden, at sea

Cause of Death

heat stroke

Cultural Heritage

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