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Morgan Thomas (1824–1903)

by E. J. R. Morgan

This article was published:

Morgan Thomas (1824-1903), by Adelaide Photographic Co.

Morgan Thomas (1824-1903), by Adelaide Photographic Co.

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 6190

Morgan Thomas (1824-1903), surgeon and public benefactor, was born at Glynneath, Glamorgan, Wales, on 15 December 1824. Educated at University College, University of London, in 1847 he became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons and a licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries. He reached South Australia on 26 May 1848 in the barque Zealous. In May 1853 at Macclesfield he applied for registration as a medical practitioner and in the next month he was appointed medical officer at Guichen Bay at a salary of £50 with the right of private practice. In 1854 he resigned and went to Nairne where he practised; he is said to have married and possibly his wife died while he was there; the marriage was probably childless.

On 22 May 1855 Thomas was appointed house surgeon at the Adelaide Hospital and resident medical officer at the Lunatic Asylum at a salary of £225 with quarters. In 1856 he became assistant colonial surgeon, but resigned in 1858 and practised for some years in Adelaide; from 1873 he lived in Wakefield Street and until his death frequented the Adelaide Circulating Library and the magazine room of the Public Library of South Australia. He usually lunched in the Hamburg Hotel in Rundle Street; after the meal he leant against a hitching-post until exactly 2.30 p.m. when he entered a near-by chemist's shop to chat with its proprietor who witnessed two of Thomas's wills.

He made the Adelaide Hospital the chief beneficiary under his first will but he changed his mind after dissension between the medical staff and the government. In December 1901 Thomas made his last will under which, subject to certain legacies totalling £16,000, he left the residue to the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery, which received about £65,000. That sum is now divided equally between the South Australian State Library, the South Australian Museum of Natural History and the Art Gallery of South Australia. He was reputed to have inherited money from land in Wales and to have invested wisely; he also lived frugally and had no debts. About a quarter of his estate was in British consols; most of the balance was in shares in gas, banking and tramway companies. Thomas had no relations in Australia and no close friends. There is no evidence that he was interested in the fine arts or in natural history, and he owned few books: the most plausible explanation for his choice of his residuary legatee is that he incorrectly believed that the Adelaide Circulating Library was conducted by the board of the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery.

Thomas was a small spare man who walked with a limp. He died in his house on 8 March 1903.

Select Bibliography

  • Parliamentary Papers (South Australia), 1866-67, 3 (150)
  • Register (Adelaide), 27 May 1848
  • Observer (Adelaide), 14, 21 Mar 1903
  • Morgan Thomas papers (State Records of South Australia)
  • Colonial Secretary's, Index to in-letters and out-letters (State Records of South Australia).

Citation details

E. J. R. Morgan, 'Thomas, Morgan (1824–1903)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 19 July 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

Morgan Thomas (1824-1903), by Adelaide Photographic Co.

Morgan Thomas (1824-1903), by Adelaide Photographic Co.

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 6190

Life Summary [details]


15 December, 1824
Glyn Neath, Glamorgan, Wales


8 March, 1903 (aged 78)
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.