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Edward William Hobson (1816–1890)

by C. A. McCallum

This article was published:

Edward William Hobson is a minor entry in this article

Edmund Charles Hobson (1814-1848), physician and naturalist, was born on 10 August 1814 at Parramatta, the son of Edmund Hobson, and a second cousin of Captain William Hobson. At 2 he was sent to Van Diemen's Land where he was brought up by his maternal grandfather. As a youth he studied under Dr James Scott, the colonial surgeon; later he went to Europe to complete his education. In London he studied comparative anatomy under Professor Robert Grant, and became acquainted with Sir Richard Owen (1804-1892) the distinguished British naturalist. Hobson also completed a medical course, obtaining his diploma from the University of Erlangen, Bavaria. In September 1837 he married Margaret, daughter of John Adamson, a substantial London merchant in Walbrook.

Hobson left England in the Appolline and in March 1839 arrived in Hobart Town where he immediately began a medical practice. Professor Grant had suggested that Hobson should seek to extend the scientific knowledge of Tasmanian natural history. Sir John Franklin warmly supported this proposal and recommended Hobson's appointment as naturalist to the colony. The suggestion was not taken further but Hobson helped to establish the Tasmanian Society, later merged into the Royal Society of Tasmania. In April 1839 he accompanied Lady Jane Franklin overland from Port Phillip to Sydney. Hobson's original notes, the first scientific natural history survey of the country between Melbourne and the Murray River, are preserved in manuscript in the State Library of Victoria. While passing through Melbourne in Lady Franklin's party he visited a run held by his brother, Edward William Hobson, at Arthur's Seat on Port Phillip Bay.

Early in 1840 Hobson suffered a severe attack of fever; always of weakly constitution, his health was now seriously affected and he was urged to try a warmer climate. In the middle of that year he moved to Melbourne and resumed medical work. In October 1844 he was gazetted to the first Victorian Medical Board. He was one of the promoters of the Melbourne Hospital and was appointed a physician to it in 1847 after regulations had been made to accept his Continental qualifications. He did not live, however, to see the first patients admitted in March 1848.

In 1846 Hobson's declining health had made it necessary for him to restrict his practice. He retired to a home on the Yarra River, three miles south-east of Melbourne, but frequently visited town to see his patients. In February 1848 he ruptured a blood vessel in the lungs, lingered for five days, and died at his home, Bona Vista, South Yarra, on 4 March 1848. He was buried in the Protestant section of the Old Cemetery, where a handsome memorial was erected by public subscription. He was survived by his widow, three sons and one daughter.

As a physician, Hobson was held in high personal and professional esteem and his early death was considered a public loss. By inclination and training, however, his special interest was in natural history, particularly in the study of comparative anatomy. He maintained a small anatomical museum, he contributed to the Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science several scientific papers illustrated by his talented wife, and he sent numerous live and fossil specimens of Australian animals to Owen.

An unsigned portrait, in oils, is held in the State Library of Victoria.

His younger brother, Edward William Hobson (1816-1890?), grazier, was also born at Parramatta. As a youth he served as a sailor on ships plying between Tasmania, New Zealand, Western Australia and Port Phillip. Early in 1837 he established a small run on the Darebin Creek, near Melbourne. By June 1837 he had moved to the south-eastern shores of Port Phillip Bay and held a run, Kangerong, on the slopes of Arthur's Seat. This was followed by the establishment of Tootgarook, a run between Rye and Point Nepean. In 1843 he also took over a run at Tarwin Meadows, on Anderson's Inlet and held it until January 1845.

In June 1841 he visited parts of Gippsland, in the area of the Latrobe River. In April 1844 he left Port Phillip with a large mob of cattle, paused at Tarwin Meadows, and then moved on into the Traralgon district. Four months later he took up, on behalf of his brother Edmund, a run of 19,000 acres (7689 ha) in this area. On Edmund's death in 1848, the control of this run passed to his executors, J. H. N. Cassell and J. R. Murphy, although Edward remained in occupation. In 1853 the run was divided into Traralgon East and Traralgon West, Edward Hobson occupying the latter for a few months. Although reasonably successful up to this time Hobson, who had been made a justice of the peace in 1847, now lost substantially in investments in shipping. In 1862 he was in trouble for cattle stealing and forgery. Three years later he took up cattle droving in New South Wales on the Murray. He was farming a property in that colony in 1873 and remained there until 1884 when he moved to a property of 1900 acres (769 ha) at Swan Hill, where he died about 1890.

On 9 September 1846 Hobson married Marie Anne Martha Celine Helena Napper, a cultured woman of French extraction. During his financial reverses, his wife moved to Euston in New South Wales to be near her husband and opened a school there. They had a son, and a daughter who died in infancy.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland, Victoria and its Metropolis, vols 1-2 (Melb, 1888)
  • R. V. Billis and A. S. Kenyon, Pastoral Pioneers of Port Phillip (Melb, 1932)
  • F. J. Meyrick, Life in the Bush, 1840-47 (Lond, 1939)
  • ‘Memoir of the Late Dr. Hobson’, Illustrated Australian Magazine, vol 1, no 6, Dec 1850, pp 395-408
  • H. S. Parris, ‘From Melbourne to the Murray in 1839’, Victorian Naturalist, vol 66, no 10, Feb 1950, pp 183-90 and vol 66, no 11, Mar 1950, pp 203-10
  • W. J. Cuthill, History of Traralgon (State Library of Victoria).

Citation details

C. A. McCallum, 'Hobson, Edward William (1816–1890)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

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