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Edward Samuel Bedford (1809–1876)

by Peter Bolger

This article was published:

Edward Samuel Pickard Bedford (1809-1876), by J. W. Beattie

Edward Samuel Pickard Bedford (1809-1876), by J. W. Beattie

Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, State Library of Tasmania, AUTAS001125647321

Edward Samuel Pickard Bedford (1809-1876), surgeon, politician and public servant, was born in London, the younger son of William Bedford and Martha, née Pickett. He arrived at Hobart Town on 31 January 1823 with his parents. While his elder brother, William, was destined for the church, Edward was trained in medicine. He assisted in the Colonial Hospital and became subordinate assistant surgeon of the Medical Department in 1826 and assistant colonial surgeon in 1829. In 1831 he went to England where he studied medicine in London (M.R.C.S., 1833; F.R.C.S., 1854). He returned to Hobart in 1833 with the appointment of assistant colonial surgeon first class. He commenced private practice, became one of the most successful of Hobart's doctors and was medical officer for most of the life assurance companies. He was appointed medical officer for the city in 1852, a commissioner in lunacy in 1856 and a justice of the peace. His duties as surgeon to the Commissariat Department included attendance on the sick in the Colonial Hospital, various penitentiaries, the Orphan Schools, convict road-gangs and the constabulary. From 1841 he served on the Medical Examiners' Board and made the recruitment of doctors a special interest. Realizing that the sick poor of Hobart loathed the Colonial Hospital with its convict discipline and associations, he started St Mary's in Campbell Street as a subscription hospital; in 1847 the foundation stone was laid for the unpretentious, but charming, building in Davey Street, Hobart, which was used as public offices after St Mary's closed. By 1856 Bedford had planned in detail a medical training school at St Mary's with Thomas Arnold as its classical and mathematical lecturer and himself teaching surgery. The scheme was unsuccessful, for the Royal College of Surgeons refused its recognition, and Hobart was left with few scholars when prosperity declined after 1856. Some young men did, however, make their first steps in a medical career with Bedford before going to British universities, but none of them returned to Tasmania.

Bedford was active in social affairs. In 1856 he was elected to the first Legislative Council under responsible government and held his seat until 1859 but revealed no particular talent for politics. He was prominent in the Royal Society and showed a diversity of interest in his three papers: 'Observations upon the condition of young marsupial animals' (1842); 'On the epidemics of 1852-3' (1854) and 'On the origin of nervous force' (1863). He was an early and enthusiastic collector of local art and acquired several water-colours by John Skinner Prout and Thomas Wainewright. He sponsored art exhibitions and lectured to the Mechanics' Institute on 'The Grecian Statues' and 'Expression with reference to the Fine Arts'. He was a founder of the Tasmanian Club in 1861.

His enthusiastic local patriotism evaporated with the depression of the 1860s, when the government closed his private hospital. In 1863 he migrated to Sydney and the congenial company of his brother-in-law, Sir Alfred Stephen. Appointed medical adviser to the New South Wales government, he vigorously promoted legislation to enforce the use of vaccination against the smallpox which during 1869 was in the front of every mind because of the outbreaks in neighbouring colonies. Bedford attended the public meeting on 20 March 1868 which accepted the proposal for a new hospital to commemorate the Duke of Edinburgh's narrow escape from assassination and he seconded the motion to name it the Prince Alfred Hospital. He was on the first working committee to gather subscriptions for this hospital and continued active in its affairs for some years. He took an interest in the Sydney Infirmary and in 1872 was nominated its honorary surgeon. He died in Sydney on 24 February 1876. On 14 January 1836 at Hobart he had married Mary Selby of Wilmington, Kent. He was survived by two daughters and seven sons, five of whom attended the Hutchins School.

Select Bibliography

  • Votes and Proceedings (House of Assembly, Tasmania), 1861 (34)
  • Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Gazette, 26 Apr 1918, hospital jubilee
  • Empire (Sydney), 22 Oct 1870, 21 Mar 1871, 7 Feb 1872
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Feb 1876
  • St Mary's Hospital, Report, 1856 (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • Hutchins School, Admission Register, 1846-92 (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • Colonial Secretary's letters (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

Peter Bolger, 'Bedford, Edward Samuel (1809–1876)', 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

Edward Samuel Pickard Bedford (1809-1876), by J. W. Beattie

Edward Samuel Pickard Bedford (1809-1876), by J. W. Beattie

Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, State Library of Tasmania, AUTAS001125647321

Life Summary [details]


London, Middlesex, England


24 February, 1876 (aged ~ 67)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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