Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Lorenzo Young (1826–1881)

by B. K. Hyams

This article was published:

John Lorenzo Young (1826-1881), by E. S. Hughes

John Lorenzo Young (1826-1881), by E. S. Hughes

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 7972

John Lorenzo Young (1826-1881), engineer and schoolmaster, was born on 30 May 1826 in London, son of a Cornish building contractor. He was educated at the Communal College of Boulogne, France, and later under a very liberal Lutheran, Professor Opel, at Wiesbaden, Germany; in 1842 he attended the College of Civil Engineers, Putney, and in 1843-46 he studied at King's College, University of London. He then acquired engineering experience in railway construction and mining in Cornwall.

On 31 October 1850 Young arrived at Adelaide in the Panama and joined C. G. Feinagle as assistant teacher in the South Australian High School. The Victorian goldfields drew them both, but Young returned and in 1852 opened a school in the Ebenezer Chapel off Rundle Street with six pupils. One of a small group who founded the Adelaide Philosophical (Royal) Society, from 1853 he was an honorary member until his death. On 24 October 1855 at St Mary's Church, Sturt, he married Martha Paynter Young (d.1887) and in 1860-61 they visited England with their two children.

Young's non-denominational Adelaide Educational Institution flourished. His brother Oliver joined the staff, pupils increased and larger accommodation was acquired in Stephens Place and in 1867 in Freeman Street. Biannual prize-givings were held at White's Rooms where work was displayed and Young reported on the school's progress. With several hundred boarders and day-boys it became the largest private independent school in South Australia. In 1872 new premises were built at Parkside in Young Street, named after the headmaster. An exceptionally progressive teacher, Young avoided rote learning, punishment and religious instruction. On weekends he taught surveying on field trips and his courses included moral philosophy, physiology, political economy and mechanical drawing as well as the usual subjects. Intellectual stimulus and acute observation were encouraged and boys could choose their own curriculum. Young's teaching emphasized morality, justice and freedom; his goal was to 'root out the seeds of selfishness' and 'enkindle … generous sentiments'. He opposed compulsory education and state aid or interference.

Many of Young's pupils later attained positions of public and professional importance in the province and attested the value of the inspiration he had given. Ex-scholars included Caleb Peacock, William Bickford, Walter Samson, Charles Babbage, Elias Solomon, W. P. Auld and Charles Kingston, premier and federationist. An Old Scholars' Association was formed and when the school closed in 1880 on Young's retirement, he was presented with 336 gold sovereigns and many grateful testimonials to his genial, sympathetic counselling.

Young planned to join his wife and the large family of sons and daughters who had preceded him to Veryan, Cornwall, where his father still lived. He prepared a lecture urging English workers and farmers to migrate to South Australia where he hoped to return himself, believing that it enjoyed the freest institutions in the world. He embarked on the John Elder in 1881 but became depressed and ill from sciatica during the voyage. On 26 July he died of apoplexy and was buried at sea. His estate was sworn for probate at £3953. He is commemorated by scholarships at the University of Adelaide for research in political economy and for general research.

Select Bibliography

  • G. E. Loyau, The Representative Men of South Australia (Adel, 1883)
  • H. T. Burgess (ed), Cyclopedia of South Australia, vol 2 (Adel, 1909)
  • Parliamentary Papers (South Australia), 1861 (131), 1868 (56)
  • ‘Annual Report’, Royal Society of South Australia, Transactions, 4 (1880-81)
  • Register (Adelaide), 1 Nov 1850, 25 Feb 1863, 29 Apr 1867, 18 Dec 1880, 6 Sept 1881, 9 July, 11 Oct 1912, 25 Nov 1915
  • Observer (Adelaide), 25 Dec 1880
  • R. J. Nicholas, Private and Denominational Secondary Schools of South Australia: Their Growth and Development (M.Ed. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1953)
  • Verco papers (State Records of South Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

B. K. Hyams, 'Young, John Lorenzo (1826–1881)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 21 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

John Lorenzo Young (1826-1881), by E. S. Hughes

John Lorenzo Young (1826-1881), by E. S. Hughes

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 7972

Life Summary [details]


30 May, 1826
London, Middlesex, England


26 July, 1881 (aged 55)
at sea

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