The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Elder, Sir Thomas
Elder, Sir Thomas, G.C.M.G., is the fourth son of the late George Elder, of Kirkcaldy, Scotland, by his marriage with Joanna Haddo, daughter of Alexander Lang, of Leith, N.B., and was born at Kirkcaldy in 1818. He emigrated to South Australia in 1854, and joined the firm of Elder & Co., founded by his brother, Mr. A. L. Elder, and on the retirement of the latter became its head, as he now is of the present firm of Elder, Smith & Co., of Adelaide. Sir Thomas Elder was mainly instrumental in forming the company to work the famous Moonta copper mines. He also introduced camels into the colony for exploratory purposes in 1861, and allowed of their use by the expeditions under Mr. Giles, Major Warburton, and Mr. Gosse. Sir Thomas contributed £20,000 towards the endowment of Adelaide University in 1874, and, in addition to other benefactions, endowed a scholarship in connection with the Royal College of Music of London, and offered £5000 towards the exploration of the interior of Australia, and a similar amount towards the expenses of the proposed Antarctic expedition, conditionally, in both cases, on a certain amount of public subscriptions being obtained. Ultimately he undertook the sole cost of the exploring expedition under Mr. Lindsay in 1891-2. He has taken an active interest in the breeding of first-class stock, and has imported some of the finest horses brought to Australia. He was a member of the Legislative Council from 1863 to 1868 and from 1871 till 1878, when he resigned his seat, and in the latter year went to Europe as Honorary Commissioner for South Australia at the Paris International Exhibition. In 1887 he offered to contribute £10,000 towards the establishment of a Medical School in connection with the University of Adelaide. He was knighted in May 1878, and created K.C.M.G. in 1887 and G.C.M.G. in 1888.