James Willson Agnew

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James Willson Agnew

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Sir James Willson Agnew (1815-1901), medical practitioner and politician, was born on 2 October 1815 at Ballyclare, County Antrim, Ireland, son of James William Agnew, physician, and his wife Ellen, née Stewart. After studying medicine at London (M.R.C.S., 1838), Paris and Glasgow (M.D., 1839), he emigrated to Sydney where he practised for a few months; he then decided to take up land in the Port Phillip District but in Melbourne had second thoughts when he received a letter offering him appointment as private secretary to Sir John Franklin, lieutenant-governor of Van Diemen's Land. By the time he arrived in Hobart Town the position had been filled, so he applied for professional employment. His first appointment was in 1841 as assistant surgeon to the agricultural establishment; later that year he became assistant surgeon to the Saltwater River probation station on Tasman Peninsula.
Agnew was an early member of the Tasmanian Society (later Royal Society), and in 1841 his first paper, 'Notes on the teeth and poison apparatus of the snakes of Tasman's peninsula', was published in the second volume of the Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science. In 1851 he was elected to the council of the Royal Society, and was its honorary secretary in 1861-81 and 1884-94. He became the first chairman of the board of management of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, and an early chairman of the trustees of the Hobart Public Library; he retained both offices until 1901. His ethnological pamphlet, Last of the Tasmanians, was published in Sydney in 1888.
For more information see : http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/agnew-sir-james-willson-2871


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