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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Cockburn, Hon. John Alexander

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Cockburn, Hon. John Alexander, M.P., M.D., son of the late Thomas Cockburn, of Berwickshire, and Isabella Wright his wife, was born at Corsbie, near Duns, in Scotland, on August 23rd, 1850, and was educated at Cholmeley School, Highgate. He studied medicine at King's College, London, and graduated M.D. Lond. (gold medal) in 1874. He emigrated to South Australia in 1875, and practised medicine in Jamestown, where in 1877 he was appointed first mayor of the town, which office he held for three and a half years. In 1884 Dr. Cockburn was returned as a member of the House of Assembly for the district of Burra, and was Minister of Education in Sir J. W. Downer's Government from June 16th, 1885, to June 7th, 1857. At the general elections in 1887 he was defeated for the Burra, but was immediately afterwards returned for the district of Mount Barker. On June 27th, 1889, Dr. Cockburn formed a ministry, and held office till August 1890 as Premier and Chief Secretary. His administration was characterised by the introduction of bills providing for Progressive Succession Duties, a Progressive Tax on Unimproved Land Values, and other advanced Liberal measures. Dr. Cockburn was one of the representatives of South Australia at the Australasian Federation Conference held in Melbourne in Feb. 1890, and was one of the delegates to the Federal Convention held in Sydney in March 1891. Dr. Cockburn was chairman of a board appointed to inquire into the subject of technical education, and was first chairman of the School of Mines and Industries of South Australia, which was established as the result of that inquiry. He also carried a resolution in the House of Assembly in favour of the introduction of drawing, science, and manual training into the state schools. In 1886, while Minister of Education, he instituted Arbor Day in South Australia. Dr. Cockburn married, in May 1875, Sarah Holdway, fourth daughter of the late Forbes Scott Brown, of Berwickshire.