Grace Elizabeth Jennings Carmichael (1867–1904). Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.
On this day
With whom do you share your birthday? Dr Nicole McLennan, PhD ’98, solves the riddle.
At the Australian Dictionary of Biography website there are around 13,000 lives freely available to explore.
The biographies span the occupational fields of politics, medicine, law and education.
There are lots of ways to navigate this content, including browsing and carefully constructed searches. One diverting idea is to search for those born on a particular day. Under the ‘Advanced Search’ tab, type a day and month into the birth fields (leaving the year blank) and select ‘Search’ to uncover all those in the ADB who were born on your chosen day.
To take one example, a search on ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt’s birthday, 24 February, results in 34 matches. While there are no fellow Nobel Prize winners in the list, there is another Vice-Chancellor. Schmidt shares his birthday with the economist Sir Douglas Berry Copland (1894–1971) who was appointed foundation Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University in 1948.
The earliest subjects born on 24 February are men prominent in the establishment of the colonial settlement: Sir Henry Barkly (1815–1898), Governor of Victoria from 1856 to 1863; Sir Patrick Lindesay (1778–1839), a British military officer who arrived in 1827 to take charge of the garrison at Port Jackson and was briefly acting governor; and surveyor Charles Grimes (1772–1858).
The biographies span the occupational fields of politics, medicine, law and education. Also among them are representatives of a range of religions.
They comprise Queensland-based Methodist minister Joseph Tainton (1901–1981); Baptist pastor-turned-journalist John Medway Day (1838–1905); Congregational minister Charles Bernard Cockett (1888–1965); and Melkite priest Sylwanos Mansour (1854–1929), who migrated from Syria (Lebanon) in 1891 following petitions from the community for the appointment of a cleric in Australia.
Women represented include Emma Ann Browne (1857–1941) who is remembered for her philanthropic work, particularly as a founder of the Queen Victoria Maternity Hospital, and the poet Grace Elizabeth Jennings Carmichael (1867–1904), known for her sentimental accounts of the bush. They are joined by Sydney-born Elizabeth Julia Reid (1915–1974), a journalist and committed worker for The Grail, a group of Catholic laywomen dedicated to making a difference in the world.
In the arts, those born on 24 February include Moravian-born ballet dancer Edouard Borovansky (1902–1959) who, anticipating war, remained in Australia following the tour of the Royal Convent Garden Russian Ballet in 1938. Based in Melbourne, he became known as a ballet director, established the Borovansky Australian Ballet Company and toured performances across Australasia.
Two sportsmen make the list: golfer James Bennett Ferrier (1915–1986), who won the Australian Open (1938 and 1939), the Professional Golfers’ Association of America Championship (1947) and the US Masters (1950), among other titles, and boxer David Sands (1926–1952). Dave, a Dunghutti man born at Burnt Bridge (near Kempsey), was the most successful of six brothers who became boxers.
In 1946 he won the Australian middleweight and light-heavyweight championship titles. Three years later he secured the British Empire middleweight title in London and then in 1950, the Australian heavyweight championship. Although he was fancied as a contender for the world middleweight title, negotiations to arrange the contest were ongoing when he died from injuries following a truck accident.
Those born on the 24 February are a truly diverse collection of people that in many ways reflect the mission of the ADB to cover all strands of Australian life. So I invite you to take a few spare minutes to search for who was born on your birthday. You may be surprised at who you find.
Read more in the Australian Dictionary of Biography at adb.anu.edu.au. The ADB is produced by the National Centre of Biography at ANU.