Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Frank Stanley Dobson (1835–1895)

by Elizabeth Barrow

This article was published:

Frank Stanley Dobson (1835-1895), by unknown photographer

Frank Stanley Dobson (1835-1895), by unknown photographer

Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, State Library of Tasmania, AUTAS001125645572

Frank Stanley Dobson (1835-1895), lawyer and politician, was born on 20 April 1835 in Hobart Town, the second son of John Dobson, a solicitor from Durham, who migrated to Van Diemen's Land in 1833, and his wife Mary Ann, née Atkinson; he was a brother of Sir William and half-brother of Alfred and Henry. His childhood was spent mainly at his uncle's house in the Tasmanian midlands and at Hutchins School. When Governor Sir William Denison was transferred to New South Wales Dobson went with him as tutor to his sons. He travelled with the family to England, and in 1856 entered St John's College, Cambridge (B.A., 1861; LL.B., 1860; LL.M., 1864; LL.D., 1870). He was admitted to the Middle Temple and called to the Bar in 1860. He returned to Australia and settled in Melbourne, was called to the Bar in 1861 and started a practice in Common Law. He became an examiner in French and German at the University of Melbourne and in 1863 was appointed lecturer in law. When his appointment was announced, one newspaper objected that 'being a good flute player is not a qualification for a law lectureship', but his close connexion with the university was retained for thirty-two years. He also became a Queen's Counsel in 1887.

Dobson's great interest was in the law of procedure, the law of wrongs and the law of obligations. For several years he was a certifying barrister to the Victorian Friendly Societies but in 1869 resigned. He was elected to the Legislative Council for the Southern Province in December 1870. When the Reform Act of 1880 enlarged the council, he represented the South Eastern Province and held the seat until 1895. He was several times offered a portfolio but refused until 1881 when Sir Bryan O'Loghlen persuaded him to take office as solicitor-general. In 1883-95 Dobson was chairman of committees, where his knowledge of constitutional law and parliamentary procedure was very useful. His activities were wide ranging. He was a member from 1880 of the royal commission on the promotion of technological and industrial instruction, a trustee of the Melbourne Public Library and National Gallery and in 1884 president of the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria. He became a fellow of the Linnean Society and an enthusiastic member of the Victorian Acclimatisation Society. For some years he represented Belvoir in the Church of England Assembly. He died at his home in South Yarra on 1 June 1895.

Dobson was married three times: first, at Christ Church, Hawthorn, on 27 June 1863 to Adelaide Whitehurst, who died on 24 August 1865; second, on 6 June 1871 to Edith Mary Carter, who died on 6 April 1874; third, at St David's Cathedral, Hobart, on 15 April 1879 to Henrietta Louisa Sharland, who survived him. His only children were a daughter who died in infancy and a son, Frank Temple, who graduated from Melbourne and Cambridge and became a solicitor in Melbourne.

Select Bibliography

  • H. M. Humphreys (ed), Men of the Time in Australia: Victorian series, 1st ed (Melb, 1878)
  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1881)
  • J. L. Forde, Story of the Bar of Victoria (Melb, 1913)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Legislative Council, Victoria), 1871-95
  • Argus (Melbourne), 3 June 1895.

Citation details

Elizabeth Barrow, 'Dobson, Frank Stanley (1835–1895)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Frank Stanley Dobson (1835-1895), by unknown photographer

Frank Stanley Dobson (1835-1895), by unknown photographer

Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, State Library of Tasmania, AUTAS001125645572

Life Summary [details]


20 April, 1835
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia


1 June, 1895 (aged 60)
South Yarra, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.