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Samuel Henry Wintle: a Biography

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

Samuel Henry Wintle (1830-1909) was a Tasmanian scholar, publicist, and poet.

Early life

Samuel Henry Wintle was born on 16 September 1830 in Hobart Town.

Wintle moved to Sydney with his family in 1839. It was here that he probably received his scientific education, which was ‘limited and faulty’.

He returned to Hobart after his father died in 1854.


Wintle addressed the Mechanics’ Institute in June 1860, hailed as the first ‘native mechanic’ to do so. His speech reconciled geology with religion.

He was elected to the Royal Society of Tasmania in 1863.

During the 1860s and 1870s, Wintle wrote articles about fossils, coal, tin, iron, and gold. They were published in various Australian newspapers and journals.

He exhibited geological specimens at the Melbourne Intercolonial Exhibition in 1866. In 1867, he advertised collections of geological specimens and a geological panorama of Hobart.

Wintle was also a controversial social commentator. In 1867, he wrote a contemptuous letter to the Tasmanian Times (no relation to this fine publication) regarding the recent visit of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh. He also criticised Marcus Clarke for bringing the police force into disrepute with his novel For the Term of His Natural Life.

He was a poet, as well. A collection of his poems, Fragments of Fern Fronds, was published in Launceston 1870.

When he was elected a fellow of the Linnean Society in 1880, Wintle listed his interests as entomology and geology.

In 1883, he submitted application for the curatorship of the Royal Society of Tasmania’s museum, but was rejected. He subsequently moved to Melbourne and continued to publish articles.

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Death and legacy

Wintle died on 3 January 1909 in East Melbourne at the age of 79. He was buried in Spring Vale cemetery.

James Bonwick said that Wintle “laboured freely and nobly in the cause of science.” Julian Tenison-Woods named a Table Cape fossil in Wintle’s honour in 1873. The character of Mr Wanfel in Bonwick’s 1873 novel The Tasmanian Lily was probably a portrait of Wintle.

Opening passage of The Tasmanian Lily

In the month of October, a few years ago, a vessel made the land on the western side of Tasmania. The voyage had been unusually tedious, and the delight of the passengers at the long looked for shore was freely expressed.

The white-crested quartz coast caught the eye. It was the same which Tasman first saw two hundred and thirty years ago. It is still the mighty barrier of the Island Home, ever hurling back the ever-repeated assaults of the angry western waves.

Rounding the south-west cape, the course was eastward till the Eddystone rock was left on the larboard bow.

The wild birds rose with a screaming salute to the new comers, and the breakers roared a welcome against the cliffs.

Then the voyagers to the north-east that they might enter Storm Bay. The coal regions of Recherche Bay and Southport were left behind, and a natural obelisk of basalt off the south end of Bruni Island was their landmark.

Entering Storm Bay, the romantic magnificence of the scenery of Tasmania came before them in successive kaleidoscopic views of beauty. To their left stretched the long and narrow island of Bruni, nearly divided at its centre, where Cook’s celebrated Adventure Bay murmurs on a sandy beach. Every varying form of peak and swelling top was brought forward by the slate and basalt rocks of that coast. To the right rose the shaggy woody heights of Tasman’s Peninsula, once the scene of volcanic fury, and for many years the principal convict establishment of Van Diemen’s Land.

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The Iron Pot, with its lighthouse, guided them out of Storm Bay, and beyond its junction with D’Entrecasteaux channel. But the gay Frenchmen of revolutionary times had left it for seventy years; while the dark-eyed maidens, about whom they wrote such romantic tales, have passed away with all their race.

You can read the full text here.

Source: Tasmanian Times

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