The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Hearn, Hon. William Edward

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Hearn, Hon. William Edward, M.L.C., LL.D., the son of Rev. W. E. Hearn, vicar of Killargue, and afterwards of Kildrumferton, co. Cavan, Ireland, was born at Belturbet, co. Cavan, on April 21st, 1826, and educated at the Royal School of Enniskillen, and at Trinity College, Dublin, where he studied law In 1849, on the opening of the Queen's Colleges, he was appointed Professor of Greek in the Queen's College, Galway, and afterwards held the office of Examiner to the Queen's University of Ireland. On the opening of the University of Melbourne in 1854, Dr. Hearn was selected by a committee—of which the late Sir John Herschel was chairman—as Professor of Modern History, Modern Literature, Logic, and Political Economy. Later on he became Professor of Modern History and Political Economy alone—a post which he resigned on being appointed Dean of the Faculty of Law. In this capacity he lectured on Jurisprudence, Roman, Constitutional, and International Law. His personal influence on the university students of his time has left a deep impress on the scholarship and culture of Victoria in the present generation. He was an indefatigable literary worker, and besides holding for some time the position of editor of the Australasian, he found time to write four important books. Had he confined his attention to one subject, he might very probably have attained the first rank in eminence; as it was his active mind travelled in too many grooves. His first work was entitled "Plutology; or, The Theory of the Efforts to Satisfy Human Wants." This was for a long time recognised as a standard work in political economy, and though the advance of the science has tended to render the book obsolete, it will always have its importance in connection with the history of the science. His next book was "The Government of England: its Structure and Development" (1867). This is still regarded as a unique book, being the best story of the growth of our unwritten Constitution. In 1878 he published his "Aryan Household: its Structure and its Development." This is an introduction to the study of comparative jurisprudence, and analyses the ethical conceptions of our primitive ancestors. Lastly, in 1884 he published his "Theory of Legal Duties and Rights," a work which was suggested by the final task to which he devoted himself. This was the consolidation of the Victorian statutes, a most laborious compilation, in the midst of which death overtook him on April 23rd, 1888. In 1878 he had been returned as representative of the Central Province in the Legislative Council. For some years he was the recognised leader of the Council, and took a prominent part in politics as a Constitutionalist and Free Trader. Dr. Hearn, whose family was of Northumbrian origin, married first, in 1847, Rose, daughter of Rev. W. J. H. Lefanu, rector of St. Paul's, Dublin (who died in 1877), and secondly, in 1878, Isabel, daughter of Major W. G. St. Clair.