Australian Dictionary of Biography

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George Sutherland (1855–1905)

by Suzanne G. Mellor

This article was published:

George Sutherland (1855-1905), journalist, was born on 1 October 1855 at Dumbarton, Scotland, second son of George Sutherland, draftsman, and his wife Jane, née Smith. In 1864 the family, which included Alexander, migrated to New South Wales where George attended Sydney Grammar School for five years. When the family moved to Melbourne in 1870 he went to Scotch College.

Sutherland worked briefly as a junior teacher in private secondary schools, and then read history and political economy at the University of Melbourne (B.A., 1877; M.A., 1879). He taught humanities at Carlton College where Alexander was headmaster; though fond of teaching he found the management of classes wearing. Turning to journalism, he went up the Darling River to do an assignment 'among the Riverina sheep runs'; he then took a steamer down river and visited Adelaide, where he met J. H. Finlayson of the South Australian Register. He joined the editorial staff of the Register in 1881 and in the next twenty years gained a reputation as a 'highly cultivated and remarkably versatile journalist' who at a moment's notice could write on almost any conceivable theme. He had already collaborated with Alexander in a lively textbook account of the History of Australia from 1606 to 1876 (Melbourne, 1877) and had published on his own account Tales of the Goldfields (1880). In Adelaide he wrote further works: Australia or England in the South (London, 1886) was designed to give the impression of life in Australia while The South Australian Company. A Study in Colonisation (London, 1898) was his most serious work. More practical books, based on his own and others' observations, were published on vine-growing, livestock-handling and the geography of Australia. Of an experimental, inventive bent, he had from 1880 engaged in what he termed 'technological journalism', beginning with his descriptions of promising inventions displayed at various international exhibitions. His book Twentieth Century Inventions. A Forecast (London, 1901) included his own patented and successful photographic engraving process, rapid-printing newspaper portraits process and ore concentrators, as well as a discussion of inventions in other fields.

In 1902 Sutherland returned to Melbourne to join the editorial staff of the Age. Modest, cultured and urbane, with 'high integrity and exceedingly happy temperament', he died suddenly at his home at Kew on 1 December 1905 of rupture of the heart and was buried in the Boroondara cemetery, with Rev. C. Strong officiating. He left an estate valued for probate at £339. In Adelaide on 25 September 1882 he had married Ada Alice, daughter of R. G. Brown, and was survived by her and their two sons and three daughters, one of whom, Margaret, became a distinguished composer.

Select Bibliography

  • Age (Melbourne), 4 Dec 1905
  • Argus (Melbourne), 4 Dec 1905
  • Register (Adelaide), 4 Dec 1905
  • Sutherland papers (National Library of Australia).

Citation details

Suzanne G. Mellor, 'Sutherland, George (1855–1905)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 24 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


1 October, 1855
Dumbarton, Dumbartonshire, Scotland


1 December, 1905 (aged 50)
Kew, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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