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SIR JAMES COCKLE, CHIEF JUSTICE & MATHEMATICIAN 1819-1895

This battered long blue envelope is addressed to Sir James Cockle, chief Justice of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland and it had the blue 2 d N.S.W. stamp postmarked with an unframed duplex SYDNEY/ E/ JU 1/ 74/ P postmark. There were no markings on the reverse (Figure 1).

Cockle was born on 14 January 1819, the second son of James Cockle of Great Oakley, in Essex, England. After completing school at the Charterhouse and by private tuition, he spent a year in the USA and in the West Indies. He enrolled in law at Trinity College Cambridge in 1837, graduated B.A.(1842) & M.A. (1845), was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple in 1846, and joined the Midland Circuit in 1848. In 1854 he married Adelaide Catherine, the daughter of Henry Wilkin. He remained a part of the England legal circuit until 1863, when on the recommendation of Sir William Erle (then Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas) he was appointed the first chief justice of Queensland.

His position was somewhat delicate when he arrived in Brisbane, for Justice Lutwyche who had been the sole judge from the foundation of the colony had expected the position. Cockle by tact and kindliness won over Lutwyche and they became fast friends. In 1866, he was appointed senior member of a Royal Commission to revise the Statute Law of Queensland. In 1869, he was knighted (K.B.E.). With 14 years of service in Queensland’s justice system, Cockle took one year’s leave with full pay in 1878 and returned to England with his family. Once the leave was over, he handed in his resignation and successfully fought for a retirement pension. Now fully retired from the Bar, Cockle put all his efforts into his mathematical research.

In Brisbane, Cockle had given the impression of being somewhat shy and austere. It was a small community, and he probably felt that it was wise that the Chief Justice should be ‘above the battle’, remote from the jealousies and ambitions of men in pioneer settlements. “As a judge he showed himself to be a good lawyer, courteous and kindly to the profession, accurate and impartial in his thinking, wasting no time and unnecessary words, and earning the respect and confidence of the whole community”.

He was a busy man as the Chief Justice, but he found time to publish papers in the Philosophical Magazine, the Quarterly Journal of Mathematics and the Proceedings of the Royal Societies of N.S.W. and Victoria. As early as 1854 he had a successful scientific career, for in that year he was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in England; in 1856, a member of the Cambridge Philosophical Society; in 1863-78 President of the Queensland Philosophical Society; in 1865, Fellow of the Royal Society of England; 1870-1885, member of the London Mathematical Society and its president from 1886-1888; and, 1888-1892, Councillor of the Royal Astronomical Society, England. As a scientist he was interested in the motion of fluids, the action of magnetism on light and the theory of differential equations. He died in London at the age of 76 on 27 January 1895, survived by his wife and eight children (Figure 2).

This paper is derived from www.gutenberg.net.au/dictbiog/ and a biographical entry in Bright Sparcs, and Figure 2 was taken from the National Library of Australia website.


 
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