• Full Name:
    Dr Stephen Simpson
  • Role:
    Registered practitioner
  • Occupation/s:
    Physician and homœopath, Magistrate and Commissioner for Crown Lands
  • State:
    New South Wales
  • Date first identified using homoeopathy in Australia:

    Dr Stephen Simpson

  (Photograph taken 1867)

© This image is owned by &

         copyright to B Armstrong

           Albemarle Street (London 2009)

          In 1836 Dr Simpson resided at No 38

           - possible premises shown on left

   (current street numbering may differ)

           Photograph:  courtesy Peter Torokfalvy

(Material researched & presented by Barbara Armstrong)


Some other articles and books about the history of homœopathy in Australia mention various people as contenders for the title of Australia's first homœopath - for example, John Bell Hickson, Dr Bérigny, Dr Günst or Dom Salvado. However, it was Dr Stephen Simpson, who arrived in Australia in 1840, who was Australia's first homœopath.

According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Stephen Simpson was born in England in 1793, and was baptised on 29 July 1793. The Dictionary states that the baptism occurred at Lichfield, Staffordshire, England; however the records from England, Select Births & Christenings state that the Simpson baptism for that date occurred at Wolston, Warwick. 'Wolston' was the name which Simpson later gave to his property in Brisbane.

Simpson came from a prominent family in the Lichfield area, where his relatives had been attorneys and Town Clerks for several generations. Many of the Simpson relatives living in the same area were given the names 'Stephen' and 'Charles', so that it is easy to confuse the different generations, and the brothers and cousins.

After serving in the Army, and following his discharge in 1817, Dr Simpson obtained his medical qualifications in Edinburgh.


                           Half Moon Street (London 2009)

          Some time after 1836 Dr Simpson resided at No 40

                     - possible premises shown on left

             (however current street numbering may differ)

                     Photograph:  courtesy Peter Torokfalvy

He travelled widely in Europe and became convinced of the benefits of homœopathy. Some say that he actually studied homœopathy under Samuel Hahnemann. The Australian Dictionary states that he became personal physician to a Russian noble family and practised in Rome for a number of years. When the son of the Duchess of Sutherland went on his grand tour of Europe, Dr Simpson served as his personal physician. Because of these illustrious connections, after Simpson's arrival in Australia, Lord J. Russell strongly recommended him for a Government appointment in the Colony.

Dr Simpson was one of the early London homœopathic practitioners. In 1836 his premises were at 38 Albemarle Street, London, before he moved to 40 Half Moon Street. He was the author of "A practical view of Homœopathy: Being an address to British practitioners on the general applicability and superior efficacy of the homœopathic method in the treatment of disease" (1836). This was one of the earliest English books on the subject of homœopathy. (Dr Simpson sent a copy of his book to his cousin, Charles, which was inherited by Charles' daughter, Catherine. This personal copy contained evidence of his locations in London.)


                   Front page of Dr Simpson's book

                  From Dr Simpson's personal copy

                     (Owned by Barbara Armstrong)

In April 1856 a writer in the British Journal wrote:

Dr Simpson's was a timely work. The writer should have remained at his post; but he was discouraged, and took to a sheep run in Australia. Whether he is yet alive or dead this deponent knoweth not.

In fact, Dr Simpson and his wife, Sophia Anna Simpson (a cousin, also born in Lichfield) arrived in NSW on 26 January 1840, on the Wilmot.

Being unable to secure a Government post in Sydney, he set up house in Jamison Street, near the Circular Quay end of George Street. On 8 May 1840 Mrs Simpson gave birth to a daughter, also named Sophia. The baby died eight days later. Mrs Simpson died on 19 May 1840. Simpson remained in Sydney for six months before he abandoned his Sydney practice and moved to Moreton Bay (Brisbane) in Queensland. He arrived in Moreton Bay on 10 July 1840.

In April/May 1841 the Governor appointed Simpson as acting medical officer (Acting Colonial Surgeon) during the absence of the person who normally held that position, Dr Ballow.

There has always been some debate as to whether Dr Simpson practised his profession after he had left Sydney. However while in England in 2012, Brisbane barrister, Thomas Bradley, discovered a letter which Dr Simpson wrote to his sister-in-law in 1841. It shows that he did treat patients and that originally he had had every intention of establishing a practice. The following excepts are taken from the letter:

For the last 6 months I have, however, had medical charge of the Government Establishment during the absence of the Colonial Surgeon - This has been of some service to me as the people seem to think they have been more successfully treated than formerly - In fact right or wrong I have gotten a name by it, which is likely to lead to favourable results.

... I have now staying within for medical treatment a son of Mr Callum McKenzie, a Scotch Baronet of 12 000 per Annum & he has large establishment near here - There is also a nephew of the Governor's with a son of Admiral Elliots keeping a Sheep Station - We have also several Hon'bles - indeed there is scarcely an exceptional person person among them - The consequence of this congregation of souls has been the want of a Doctor - Several of the principal Settlers have therefore applied to me to take the medical charge of their men & provide a Private Hospital at Brisbane for the reception of bad cases. As it would be impossible for me to visit the Stations & take care of the Hospital at the same time. I proposed to the Colonial Surgeon here to join me - This he was nothing loath to do, seeing I was likely to have it all my own way - Under the firm of Simpson & Co, Mr Ballow & myself have commenced operations - For the present the Commandant here has allowed me to appropriate one of the buildings at the Farm for the reception of patients - in the meantime I have written off to Governor to obtain permission to erect a Private Hospital & Medical Store at Brisbane with security as to the future possession of the land it may be built upon when the Settlement is thrown open to purchasers - There is little doubt but I shall obtain it, as I shall be well backed by the Settlers & the Colonial Secretary will do all he can to assist me - I have already gotten a plan for my building & have men at work cutting and splitting timber for the purpose.

.... The first Station I have to visit is about 60 miles off, the others at intervals of, from 10 to 20 miles, I expect to be absent about a month living the whole time in a way that you in England can form no idea of & sleeping & like worse - but no matter, it must be done if I mean to make money - My terms are to take medical charge of whole stations after payment of 1 £ per head for the men & 10 Shillings for women and children annually - accoutrements 2 £ extra - Non subscribers 10s per consultation & three shillings per day in the Hospital - for this I visit the Stations once in 3 months & if extra journeys are required they pay according to the distance - of course these charges do not include Masters or any but the labouring class - I am in all to have the principal direction of the concern & my partner is a very good natured man & not likely to interfere with me - a thing essential to me as I cannot play second fiddle.

Stephen Simpson letter, 1841, Sir Harry Gibbs Legal Heritage Centre, Supreme Court of Queensland.



                                              Dr Stephen Simpson's residence

                                          "Wolston House" at Wacol, Queensland

                                Photograph:  courtesy Patricia Hatherly


However, despite treating some patients during his stay in Queensland, his larger plans did not eventuate, as in May 1842 Dr Simpson was appointed Magistrate and Commissioner for Crown Lands in Morton Bay. He served as Commissioner until 1855.

In 1848 he was involved with the establishment of the Brisbane General Hospital and was appointed as one of its trustees. On 26 May 1860 he was appointed one of the four members of the first Legislative Council of Queensland. He acquired land at Woogaroo and built Wolston House, which is now a National Trust property.

Dr Simpson left Brisbane on 15 December 1860. He did not return to Australia. He died on 11 March 1869 at 28 Bryanston St, Marylebone, Portman Square, London, aged 77. 


             Portrait of Dr Stephen Simpson

        "Wolston House" at Wacol, Queensland


           Courtesy of  State Library of Queensland







For more information, refer:


-  Article by Barbara Armstrong on Australia’s First Homœopath from Similia June 2006, Vol 18:1, the journal of the Australian Homœopathic Association.


-  Article by Barbara Armstrong on Australia’s First Home-Grown Homœopath in Similia December 2007, Vol 19:2.


  Dr Simpson's obituary.


-    Entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.


-    Presidential address by Sir Rapael Cilento to the Royal Historical Society of Queensland in 1966 about the life & residences of the Hon Stephen Simpson.


-    Valedictory Presidential address by Sir Rapael Cilento to the Royal Historical Society of Queensland in 1968, including observations about Dr Stephen Simpson's Will.



©   Barbara Armstrong


  • Created:
    Thursday, 24 March 2011
  • Last modified:
    Sunday, 05 October 2014