Peter Nicol Russell

Peter Nicol Russell

Sir Peter Nicol Russell (4 July 1816 – 10 July 1905) was an Australian foundry owner, philanthropist and university benefactor.


Early life

Russell was born at Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland, the second son of eleven children of Robert Russell, an engineer and ironfounder, and his wife Janet, née Nicol. Peter was educated at Kirkcaldy Grammar School and was then employed in his father's business.[1]

Career in Australia

The family emigrated to Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) in 1832, and in 1838 moved to Sydney.[1] In 1842 Peter Russell established a foundry and engineering business at Sydney and called it 'The Sydney Foundry and Engineering Works'. After the father's death this was carried on under the name of P. N. Russell and Company, and became the largest and most successful business of its kind in Australia. In 1860 Peter Russell went to London and virtually retired, except that he acted as London representative of the business. In 1875 this was closed down after industrial unrest. Russell, however, had prospered with his investments, and was now a rich man. He retained his interest in Australia, paid several visits to it, and in 1896 made a gift of £50,000 to the Sydney University to found an engineering school. In 1904 he made a second gift of £50,000 to be devoted to the same department, with the proviso that the government should provide £25,000 for buildings.[1][2]


Russell died childless in London on 10 July 1905, aged 89. He married in 1859 Charlotte, daughter of Dr Alexander Lorimer. Russell was knighted in 1904. Under his will a total sum of £16,000 was left to various institutions and charities in Sydney. The engineering school at the University of Sydney is known as the 'Peter Nicol Russell School of Engineering', and there are three Peter Nicol Russell scholarships for mechanical engineering, and a medal for research work. His portrait by W. Q. Orchardson, R.A., is in the great hall, and there is a memorial group by Edgar Bertram Mackennal in the university grounds.[1][2] Peter Nicol Russell's company, P. N. Russell and Company, was associated with the construction of the heritage listed Denison Bridge at Bathurst.[3]


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