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Dr. Arthur Martin a'Beckett

1812 – 1871

Dr Arthur Martin a’Beckett FRCS (1812 - 1871) surgeon and New South Wales parliamentarian studied at London University from 1831 before undertaking a residency in Paris, centre for innovation in the practice of hygiene, pathological anatomy and physiopathology. Aged only 23, he was a surgeon in the first Carlist War with the British volunteer force sent as an auxiliary to the Spanish Legion in 1835. When that force was dissolved following heavy casualties in 1837, a’Beckett returned to England with a number of Spanish honours. In November 1838, he sailed for Sydney with his wife Emma Louise to join his brother Sir William à Beckett (1806-1869), a New South Wales barrister. (Their brother Thomas Turner à Beckett (1808-1892), was a prominent lawyer and politician in Victoria.) Continuing to practice as a physician, Arthur was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1855. Following the passing of the Constitution Act establishing responsible self-government in New South Wales in 1855, Governor Sir William Denison KCB selected a’Beckett among the first 21 members of the new Legislative Council. Serving from May 1856 to November 1860, a time of rapid economic and population growth, he voted on formative legislation, including the Electoral Reform Acts that enfranchised almost all white adult males in NSW. He was a consultant of the Benevolent Society, an examiner for Sydney University’s Faculty of Medicine, a Commissioner for NSW’s contribution to the 1855 Paris Exhibition, President of the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts, and a trustee of the Australian Museum, the Public Library and Sydney Grammar School. His obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald described him as a man of ‘unwearied assiduity and skill, aided by amiability of manners and high social qualities.’ His son William Channing a' Beckett (1846-1929) became a prominent pastoralist and parliamentarian.

Updated 2016