• Full Name:
    Dr William Sherwin
  • Role:
    Registered practitioner
  • Occupation/s:
    Physician & Surgeon; homœopathic practitioner
  • State:
    New South Wales
    Melville Island
  • Date first identified using homoeopathy in Australia:

Australia’s first “home-grown” homœopath. On the evidence to date, William Sherwin was also probably Australia’s second homœopath, after Dr Stephen Simpson.


Sherwin was born at Parramatta, New South Wales. In 1817 he was apprenticed to Dr William Bland, who had been transported to Australia for 7 years, but eventually became the first President of the Australian Medical Association which was formed in 1859. In 1824 Sherwin travelled to England, where he completed his medical studies – the first Australian youth to do so. In 1826 he obtained a certificate as accoucheur and another certificate from the Court of Examiners of the Royal College of Surgeons, and was admitted as a member. He served as assistant surgeon to the Melville Island settlement in North Australia.


He established the first fully private practice in Parramatta in 1829. Originally Sherwin had no intention of remaining in Parramatta; however, a large number of residents earnestly requested him to settle amongst them as a surgeon, sending him a petition to that effect. “We are persuaded that while we are benefited, you will meet with that general patronage which your education and modes of practice merit.”


In 1835 Governor Richard Bourke directed William Sherwin and two others to investigate a “calamitous disease in sheep which had infested the stocks in New South Wales”.


In 1838, Sherwin sent two ships, loaded with his stock, to South Australia. Almost two-thirds of the sheep and cattle died during the passage.


During the same year, Dr Sherwin entered into a joint co-partnership with Alfred Huntley and John Alabaster Edwards.  The firm known as Huntley and Edwards was a drug and grocery warehouse business at 18 Pitt Street, Sydney. (Alfred Huntley had married Dr Sherwin's sister Eleanor on 19 April 1838 at 'Sherwin's Plains', Lake Bathurst in New South Wales). However, in 1840 the partnership was dissolved and Dr Sherwin took the firm to Court, in particular citing the conduct of Alfred Huntley. 


Dr Sherwin moved to Sydney in 1840. In 1841 he took over the premises at 18 Pitt Street, where he conducted his medical practice and advertised for someone qualified to conduct the dispensing department of his medical establishment.


During September 1841 he advertised the sale of his cattle and sheep station.


In 1844 he wrote the first medical publication by a native-born Australian, a booklet which explained changes in foetal circulation at birth.


In the 1857 Cox & Co’s Sydney Post Office Directory he was recorded as William Sherwin, MD, surgeon, at 5 College Street, on the corner of Francis Street.


In 1860 Sherwin returned to England, and was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, receiving his diploma in 1862. At about the same time the Archbiship of Canterbury conferred on him an honorary degree, which entitled him to be called “Dr Sherwin”. He returned to Australia in November 1862.


On 8 January 1863 he delivered a lecture at the School of Arts, Sydney, on ‘Physiology and Pharmacodynamics’, in support of homœopathy. He announced his intentions to practise using the principles of homœopathy, although he stated that he had studied and used homœopathy many years previously, around 1842. He believed in ‘the general correctness of the doctrine’ and forecast resultant criticism. On 24 January 1863 he delivered another lecture at the School of Arts, on ‘Evidence of the benefits of homœopathy, and statistics of its success’.


In October 1865 there was an attempt to resurrect the former Sydney Homœopathic Dispensary.  Dr Sherwin attended the meeting and was declared as being one of the medical practitioners who promised to provide medical services.  However, the venture did not proceed.


At the time of his death, Dr Sherwin was living at Seaview Terrace, Liverpool Street.


[For more information, see the article by Barbara Armstrong on “Australia’s First Home-Grown Homœopath” from Similia December 2007, Vol 19:2, the journal of the Australian Homœopathic Association]


©   Barbara Armstrong


  • Created:
    Monday, 25 May 2009
  • Last modified:
    Saturday, 22 April 2017