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Image of James Frederick Palmer

Sir James Frederick Palmer

07 June 1803 (Great Torrington, Devon, England)
23 April 1871
Rev. John and Jane, nee Johnson

Religion: Church of England

Marital Status: 1831, Isabella Gunning; no children

For medical profession

James Palmer was born in Devon, England, and became a surgeon practising in London. In 1831 he married Isabella Gunning and in 1840, after several professional disappointments, migrated to Sydney with his wife. He registered as a medical practitioner in 1842 but soon moved to Melbourne and became a cordial manufacturer and wine and spirit merchant. Between 1847 and 1854 he also engaged in pastoral interests in the Western District with Francis Murphy, who was to become first Speaker of Legislative Assembly. In 1845-46 Palmer was mayor of Melbourne. He also served in the New South Wales Legislative Council and the Victorian Legislative Council which existed prior to responsible government, and was both Speaker of the latter and a member of the select committee which drafted the Constitution. He was elected to the new Legislative Council in 1856 as one of the members for Western Province, and became its first President. He was knighted in 1857, and remained President until 1870 when he did not contest the election due to ill health. Palmer had been associated with the Melbourne Hospital from its earliest origins in 1845, serving as its vice-president 1851-65 and president 1865-70. He was also a prominent supporter of the government education system serving as Chairman National Board of Education 1851-1862 and of the succeeding Board of Education 1865-1871, and was an original trustee of the Public Library. He died at Burwood in 1871.


Mayor Melbourne 1845-1846
HouseElectorateStart End
Legislative CouncilNormanby, Dundas & Follett11 November 18511 March 1856
Legislative CouncilWestern1 November 18561 August 1870

*The Start date for Members elected after 1900 is the date they were elected. The start date for pre-1900 Members is the date they were sworn in.
Speaker 11 Nov 1851-Mar 1856
President Legislative Council 1856-1870
"Australian Dictionary of Biography" 5; Jones, Catherine & Victoria. Parliamentary Library. Library Committee (1986). "Presiding officers of the Victorian Parliament 1856-1986." Victorian Government Printing Office on behalf of the Library Committee, Parliament of Victoria, Melbourne

Last updated: 14th August 2019