James Frederick Palmer

Sir James Frederick Palmer
1st President of the Victorian Legislative Council
In office
November 1856  September 1870
Succeeded by Sir William H. F. Mitchell
3rd Mayor of Melbourne
In office
Preceded by Henry Moor
Succeeded by Henry Moor
Personal details
Born (1803-06-07)7 June 1803
Torrington, United Kingdom
Died 23 April 1871(1871-04-23) (aged 67)
Melbourne, Australia
Nationality Australian

Sir James Frederick Palmer (7 June 1803 – 23 April 1871) was a medical practitioner, Victorian pioneer, first President of the Victorian Legislative Council and former Mayor of Melbourne.

Early life

Palmer was born in Great Torrington, Devonshire, England, the fourth son of the Rev. John Palmer (a nephew of Sir Joshua Reynolds), and his wife Jane, a daughter of William Johnson.[1] He was trained in medicine, practised in London, and was surgeon at St Thomas's hospital. In 1824 he became a house surgeon at St George's Hospital (M.A.C.S., 1826). In 1835-37 he edited a four-volume edition of the Works of John Hunter, the anatomist.[1] He also supplied the glossary to A Dialogue in the Devonshire Dialect, written by his grandmother in the eighteenth century, but not published until 1837.

On 21 November 1831 Palmer married Isabella, third daughter of Dr John Gunning, C.B., who was inspector-general of hospitals at the time.[1] After failing to secure two surgical appointments, Palmer migrated to Melbourne, arriving at the end of September 1840, and in addition to practising his profession, was proprietor of a cordial manufactory and later, a wine merchant.[1]


Palmer was an early member of the Melbourne City Council and was elected Mayor of Melbourne in 1845. A mayor he laid the foundation-stone of the first Melbourne hospital building on 20 March 1846. In September 1848 Palmer was elected one of five members for Port Phillip District for the New South Wales Legislative Council, but resigned in June 1849.[1] When Victoria became a separate colony in 1851, Palmer was elected a member of the Victorian Legislative Council for Normanby, Dundas and Follett and its speaker.[2] When responsible government was granted Palmer became a candidate for the Council and was elected in 1856 for the Western Province.[2] He was the Council's first President[2] and continued in that position until September 1870,[3] when he did not seek re-election to the Council on account of his failing health. He was knighted in 1857.

Palmer was a good President of the council, took much interest in the Melbourne hospital, of which he was president for 26 years, and was also greatly interested in education. Palmer was president of the national board of education and subsequently of the board of education. Charles La Trobe described him as 'a gentleman by birth, education and profession. Sometimes he pulled against, more often for, but I always respected him as honest'.[1]

Palmer died at Burwood, his estate in Hawthorn, Melbourne, on 23 April 1871.[1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Alan Gross, 'Palmer, Sir James Frederick (1803 - 1871)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, MUP, 1974, pp 392-393. Retrieved 2014-06-25
  2. 1 2 3 Mennell, Philip (1892). "Wikisource link to Palmer, Hon. Sir James Frederick". The Dictionary of Australasian Biography. London: Hutchinson & Co. Wikisource
  3. "Former Presidents of the Legislative Council". Parliament of Victoria. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
Preceded by
Henry Moor
Mayor of Melbourne
Succeeded by
Henry Moor
New South Wales Legislative Council
Preceded by
Charles Ebden
Maurice O'Connell
Charles Nicholson
John Foster
John Airey
Member for Port Phillip
With: Lauchlan Mackinnon, James Williamson
John Dickson, Edward Curr
Succeeded by
John Foster
Victorian Legislative Council
New creation Member for Normanby, Dundas and Follett
With: Charles Griffith (from 1853)
Seat abolished
New creation Member for Western Province
With: Stephen Henty
C. Vaughan / C. Sladen
A. Cruikshank / H. Miller / J. Strachan
D. Tierney / N. Black
Succeeded by
Thomas McKellar
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