Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Walter Tyas (1833–1903)

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John Walter Tyas (1833-1903), linguist, bibliophile and university registrar, was born on 26 November 1833 at Brixton, London, son of John Tyas, classical scholar and member of the literary staff of The Times. Educated in France and at King's College School, he became tutor to the grandsons of the chief proprietor of The Times, John Walter, after whom he was named. Tyas was admitted to the Inner Temple on 31 March 1855 but for some years travelled widely with his pupils on the Continent before he was called to the Bar on 26 January 1861. He then served on the staff of The Times.

Tyas's uncle Charles John Leaf was a silk manufacturer whose London home adjoined that of Matthew Arnold. With help from him Tyas sailed for South Australia, arrived on 22 February 1868 in the Coorona and opened a softgoods warehouse. Unsuited for commerce, he soon moved to Western Australia, hired a schooner and for three years searched with some success for pearl-shell on the north coast of Australia, in New Guinea and the Aru Islands. In 1873 he returned to England where he became very friendly with his cousin Walter Leaf, who was beginning to win repute as a Greek scholar. For some years Tyas roved the Continent collecting bric-à-brac, pieces of art and books on antiquity. In 1878 he was appointed Reuter's agent in Adelaide arriving there on 18 September, and in 1882 became registrar of the University of Adelaide.

Tyas also acted as examiner in modern languages, especially in French. A natural conversationalist and an entertaining host, he was envied for his library and his knowledge of literature. He made many friends, among them the chief justice and chancellor Sir Samuel Way. The council of the university deeply regretted his loss when he resigned in ill health in January 1892. He left Adelaide next year and returned to London, making his home at Campayne Gardens, South Hampstead. His visits to the Continent became fewer and his library was his main solace. Tyas had married Jane Turner on 11 September 1879 at St Paul's Anglican Church, Adelaide; they had four daughters. He died of heart disease and chronic bronchitis in his home on 18 December 1903.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Foster, Men-at-the-Bar (Lond, 1885)
  • Register (Adelaide), 22 Feb 1868, 29 Dec 1903
  • Observer (Adelaide), 6 Feb 1892
  • Bulletin, 7 Jan 1904.

Citation details

'Tyas, John Walter (1833–1903)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 13 June 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]


26 November, 1833
Brixton, Surrey, England


18 December, 1903 (aged 70)
London, Middlesex, England

Cultural Heritage

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