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Crowther Family

Caricature featuring Dr William Crowther in St David's cemetery, undated (W.L. Crowther Library, SLT)

The Crowther Family in Tasmania originated with medical practitioner William Crowther (1788–1839), who arrived in Hobart in 1825. His son William Lodewyk Crowther (1817–85) studied first with William and later in London and Paris. As well as his Hobart medical practice he had wide business interests (in whaling, guano and timber), was an MHA and MLC (serving as Premier, 1878–79) and a founder of the Tasmanian Club. He was also implicated in the mutilation of the corpse of William Lanney in 1869. His eldest child, Edward Lodewyk Crowther (1843–1931), studied and practised medicine in Hobart, England and Scotland. Although less successful than his father in business, he served with enthusiasm and distinction in the Southern Tasmanian Volunteer Artillery and also as an MHA for 33 years.

His son, William Edward Lodewyk Hamilton Crowther (1884–1981), studied medicine at the University of Melbourne, served as an army medical officer before, during and for many years after the First World War and practised medicine (specialising in obstetrics) in Hobart. Spurred by his deep interest in history – of medicine, of Tasmania and of whaling – he built an extraordinary collection of books and other historical material which he presented (as the W.L. Crowther Library) to the State Library of Tasmania. In 1964 he was knighted, in part for this act of generosity.

The forceful personalities of some family members led to combativeness and disputation and consequently to something short of full acceptance by Tasmanian society. But through medical practice and wide-ranging public service, the Crowther family contributed with distinction to the political, economic and social development of Tasmania.

Further reading: M Cree, Edith May 1895–1974, Toorak, [1983]; ADB 3; C Von Oppeln, 'Sir William Crowther', in G Winter (ed), Tasmanian insights, Hobart, 1992.

Tony Marshall