Stewart Gill is a graduate from the Universities of Edinburgh, Toronto and Guelph and is currently Master of Queen’s College within the University of Melbourne. He is an adjunct-Professor in the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry at The University of Queensland and a Senior Fellow in History at The University of Melbourne. Stewart was Principal of Emmanuel College, The University of Queensland, from 2005-2016, and is also a former Dean of Trinity and Warden of Ridley in Melbourne. He is a past President of the Association for Canadian Studies in Australia and New Zealand, the founding Chairman of the Pacific Asia Network of Canadian Studies and currently President of the International Council for Canadian Studies. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the Queensland Academy of Arts and Sciences and ISCAST. He is the founder and former Director of The Emmanuel Centre for the Study of Science, Religion and Society within Emmanuel College. He has published widely in Scottish, Canadian and Australian history and has been a visiting lecturer at many institutions in North America and throughout Asia. Most recently he gave a paper on Sir David Hardie: Queensland’s First Medical Knight at King’s College, London. He was awarded an OAM in 2016 for services to tertiary education and the wider community.
Description: Queen’s College was founded by the Methodist Church in 1887 the third of the Colleges affiliated with the University of Melbourne. The first Master, the Reverend Edward H. Sugden, had completed his degrees externally through the University of London in the 1870s, a BA followed, unusually for a Melbourne head of college, by a BSc. Sugden arrived at Queen’s in 1888 and gave a series of lectures at the centre of which was an address on “Christianity and Science”.
The context in which Sugden gave this lecture was that in Australia of the 1870s and 1880s. The linking together of the geological and biological challenges to Christianity strengthened the hand of the ‘free thinkers’ who were attacking the Bible and Christianity. According to Walter Phillips these “free thinkers … armed with the theories of Darwin, Huxley … and others, they launched their broadsides against orthodox religion declaring the Bible incompatible with science and seeking to expose its inner contradictions and moral flaws”. The “free thinkers” used the scientific advances to attack the faith from outside the churches. Sugden tackled this argument head on in his opening remarks: “First of all let me say that as far as I can see, there is no difference between science and faith, in regard to their foundation. The foundations of modern science and of Christianity we find at the bottom the same. A very common antithesis which is taken as expressing the difference between science and religion … I very much question that, I think that the distinction is altogether a false one…”
This paper will examine Sugden’s contribution to the debates and explore further Geoffrey Blainey’s observation that it was “Sugden’s ambition to make his college the home of the sciences”.