Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Horatio George Anthony Wright (1827–1901)

by Michael Hoare

This article was published:

Horatio George Anthony Wright (1827-1901), medical practitioner, was born at Maidstone, Kent, England, son of Robert Wright and his wife Caroline, née Caldicott. Educated at Huntingdon, he studied medicine under James Paget and William Lawrence at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London (M.R.C.S., 1850; L.S.A., 1851). He arrived in Sydney on 10 December 1853 in the Dominion with his wife Ellen, née Hunter, whom he had married at Clapham Independent Chapel on 28 August 1848. Registered by the Medical Board in February 1854, he set up practice in Hunter Street. In March 1868 he was one of the first surgeons to attend the Duke of Edinburgh after he was shot by H. J. O'Farrell at Clontarf.

Elected to the Royal Society of New South Wales in 1872 Wright became a councillor next year; he was honorary treasurer in 1879-85 and 1893-1901 and a vice-president in 1885-86 and 1891-92. His principal scientific contributions to the society were as a microscopist when a member and sometime chairman of Section E (microscopy), on which he served from 1877-92. He often exhibited examples of the latest techniques and of his own high skills in micro-photography. In 1885 he presented a Ross-Zentmeyer binocular microscope to the society. Chairman of the medical section in 1878, he served at various times on the astronomy and physics and sanitary science sections. In December 1874 he had been an astronomical assistant to H. C. Russell, taking observations for the transit of Venus with an 8½-ins (22 cm) Browning telescope. Wright's influence on the Royal Society was 'unobtrusive' at a time of marked improvements in its scientific standards and prestige under A. Liversidge and others. Although frequently approached he refused to become president.

For forty-eight years Wright was one of the best-known doctors in inner Sydney, conducting his flourishing practice from his residence in Wynyard Square and supervising 'the births of many thousands of Australians'. He was consulting surgeon at St Vincent's Hospital and highly esteemed for his 'quiet genial manner' by patients and colleagues who, when he was the innocent victim of a blackmail conspiracy for alleged misconduct with a female patient, gave him a 'handsome' monetary 'solatium'.

Early in 1880 Wright was a founder and first honorary treasurer of the New South Wales branch of the British Medical Association and often took part in professional discussions. He was appointed to the Medical Board in April 1886, where he served conscientiously, sometimes as chairman, until 1901. 'Quiet and courtly in demeanour', he was benevolent and civically minded, and 'only his immediate colleagues were fully aware of the loyal service he rendered to the cause of science in Australia'. A director of the Mutual Assurance Society of Victoria and a founding member of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science (1887-88), he served as the Royal Society's member on the organizing council for the second Sydney meeting in 1891.

Aged 74, Wright died of angina pectoris at 15 York Street, Sydney, on 14 September 1901 and was buried in the Anglican section of Waverley cemetery. He was survived by one of his three sons and one of his five daughters of his first wife, and by his second wife Augusta Lucy, née Barber, whom he had married in Sydney on 19 August 1890. His estate was valued for probate at £1417.

Select Bibliography

  • H. C. Russell (ed), Observations of the Transit of Venus 1874 (Syd, 1892)
  • British Medical Assn (New South Wales), Proceedings, 1880
  • Australasian Medical Gazette, 20 (1901)
  • Bulletin, 21 Sept 1901
  • Town and Country Journal, 28 Sept 1901
  • ‘Old Sydney’, Truth (Sydney), 2 Jan 1910
  • Medical Board minute books, 1854, 1886-1901 (State Records New South Wales).

Citation details

Michael Hoare, 'Wright, Horatio George Anthony (1827–1901)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 21 April 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]


Maidstone, Kent, England


14 September, 1901 (aged ~ 74)
Sydney, New South Wales, 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.

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.