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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Morris, Robert Newton (1844–1931)

by Bruce Mitchell

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

Robert Newton Morris (1844-1931), educationist, was born on 28 March 1844 at Jamberoo, New South Wales, son of Robert Morris, farmer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Aldridge. After some education at Illawarra House Academy, Kiama, he was in business for about five years until 1864 when he became one of the first six pupils at Camden College, Newtown, the Congregational Theological College and Grammar School. At the University of Sydney (B.A., 1870) he had an outstanding record; in his final year he was the most distinguished student in the school of chemistry and experimental physics, and worked temporarily in these fields after Professor A. M. Thomson died and before Archibald Liversidge was appointed in 1872.

Morris entered the Congregational ministry and in September 1872 became the second principal of Camden College. In May 1874 he resigned, ostensibly because of ill health, but the college was suffering financial troubles and losing pupils. He followed his ministry in South Australia before returning to New South Wales to conduct a grammar school at Yass and in 1879 a Presbyterian school at Goulburn, where in 1880 he strongly opposed the opening of the Mechanics' Institute Library on Sunday afternoons.

In 1881 Morris was appointed a public school inspector for the Maitland district, an unusual appointment from outside the service. He resumed his studies and won a prize at the University of Sydney (LL.B., 1884; LL.D., 1886). He was an inspector in the metropolitan area in 1885-89 and from 1890 to his retirement in 1911 was examiner of teachers, trainees, and secondary and technical students. In 1896-1901 he was also superintendent of technical education. In 1903-04 he introduced wider courses and higher standards in the examinations for teachers and for applicants for posts as pupil-teachers.

In December 1927 Morris's estate was sequestrated when he was unable to honour promissory notes made to W. J. Allen for the purchase of four pianos. His assets were fifteen acres (6 ha) at Tempe and shares in the Rotary Brick Press Co. Ltd. He had no occupation and depended on relations for support. Predeceased by his wife Elizabeth Anne, née Tucker, whom he had married at West Maitland on 27 September 1879, Morris died at Sydney Hospital on 30 July 1931 after being accidentally knocked down by a car. He was survived by two sons and a daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • Report of the Minister of Public Instruction (Syd, 1881-1911)
  • Cyclopedia of N.S.W. (Syd, 1907)
  • J. A. Garrett and L. W. Farr, Camden College: A Centenary History (Syd, 1964)
  • bankruptcy papers, 26823/15 (State Records New South Wales).

Citation details

Bruce Mitchell, 'Morris, Robert Newton (1844–1931)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 29 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

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