Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Lewis Adolphus Bernays (1831–1908)

by Clem Lack

This article was published:

Lewis Bernays, by Poulsen, n.d.

Lewis Bernays, by Poulsen, n.d.

State Library of Queensland, 118418

Lewis Adolphus Bernays (1831-1908), public servant, was born on 3 May 1831 in London, son of Dr Adolphus Bernays, professor of German language and literature at King's College, London, and his wife Matilda, née Arrowsmith. He was educated at King's College and at 19 migrated to New Zealand, where he engaged in sheep farming for two years. In 1852 he went to Sydney, and through the offices of Sir Charles Nicholson, Speaker of the Legislative Council, he obtained a junior appointment on the official staff. Sir George Bowen, who was appointed governor of Queensland on the granting of separation in 1859, had written to Sydney asking for the nomination of a suitable clerk for the new Legislative Assembly. On Nicholson's recommendation Bernays was appointed. He arrived with his family at Brisbane in 1860.

Upon Bernays devolved the task of organizing the internal economy of the parliamentary establishment and of establishing the rules and procedure to be followed in debates. It was his unique experience to have served in the part-elective Legislative Council of New South Wales, to have seen it reorganized by responsible government under the Constitution Act of 1856, and to have witnessed the birth of the Queensland parliament. There he served continuously as clerk of the Legislative Assembly from February 1860 until his death; his only absence was during one short session in 1879. His profound knowledge of constitutional law and the processes of democratic government was of great service to the colony.

Bernays also played a prominent part in colonial affairs. He was a director of many companies and had a long association with the Brisbane Board of Water Works, first as secretary and later as member. He was also a founder of the Queensland Acclimatization Society, holding the offices of vice-president and president. He had a keen and active interest in economic botany, and published several papers in Brisbane on the subject. These included The Olive and its Products (1872), and Cultural Industries for Queensland—Papers on the Cultivation of Useful Plants Suited to the Climate of Queensland (1883). On 23 April 1875 he delivered to the Queensland Acclimatization Society a paper on The Duty of States in the Teaching of Science and Technology of Plant Life. His cultural interests were wide; he was a member of the Royal Society and fellow of the Linnean Society. In 1892 he was appointed C.M.G. Bernays died at Brisbane on 22 August 1908, formally an Anglican. On 28 November 1851 at Dunedin, New Zealand, he had married Mary Anne Eliza Borton, who was born in 1830 at Cottenham, Cambridge, England; they had eleven children, of whom five sons and four daughters survived him.

One son, Charles Arrowsmith (1862-1940), adopted his father's career as an officer of parliament. Beginning as a member of the Hansard staff he became clerk assistant and serjeant-at-arms of the Legislative Assembly in 1908, and on 1 January 1920 clerk of the Legislative Assembly. After the Legislative Council was abolished in 1922 he was appointed clerk of the parliament and held that office until his retirement on 31 December 1932. He was the author of Queensland Politics During Sixty Years (1919), and Queensland—Our Seventh Political Decade, 1920-1930 (1931). In 1885 he married Lilian Laura, daughter of Henry James Marr of Wollongong. They had three sons: Claude Lewis, sometime deputy-commissioner, British Solomon Islands, died on 14 May 1911; Roy Marr, 3rd Battalion A.I.F., killed at Gallipoli on 27 April 1915; and Geoffrey Charles Arrowsmith, wounded at Vimy Ridge, commissioned lieutenant 'for showing a conspicuous example on all occasions', mentioned in Salonika dispatches on November 1917 for gallant conduct, created M.B.E. in 1919 'for valuable services connected with the military operations of the Salonika army', and received the Grecian Order of the Redeemer.

Select Bibliography

  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 1908, 10
  • Brisbane Courier, 23 Aug 1908.

Citation details

Clem Lack, 'Bernays, Lewis Adolphus (1831–1908)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 16 July 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

Lewis Bernays, by Poulsen, n.d.

Lewis Bernays, by Poulsen, n.d.

State Library of Queensland, 118418

Life Summary [details]


3 May, 1831
London, Middlesex, England


22 August, 1908 (aged 77)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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