University of Sydney
#79 Overall Influence

University of Sydney

Australian university founded in 1850

By James Barham, PhD

The wave of expansion of Homo sapiens out of its African birthplace reached the continent of Australia around 40,000 years ago, or more. However, the first visit of Europeans to the land down under did not occur until 1606, when the Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon made landfall at what is now the town of Weipa on the western shore of the Cape York Peninsula in northern Queensland.

Several sightings and landings by other Dutch, as well as Spanish, explorers occurred over the next century and a half or so. However, it was not until 1770 that Captain James Cook claimed for the British crown the region surrounding an inlet along the southeast coast that he named Botany Bay, lying just south of modern Sydney. It was this event which led in short order to the continuous settlement of Australia by Europeans and other outsiders.

It is useful to remember, by way of comparison with the other schools on this list, that by the time the University of Sydney (the first Australian university) was founded in 1850, the British presence in the continent now universally and affectionately known as “Oz” was only about three quarters of a century old.

A lot has happened in that short time.

Today, the University of Sydney is a very large institution of higher learning serving more than 52,000 students and enjoying an endowment approaching the A$2 billion mark.

Sydney is connected to five Nobel Prize–winners in all, including:

  • John Cornforth — chemistry
  • Pioneering neuroscientist, John C. Eccles — physiology or medicine
  • Economist John Harsanyi — economics

The University of Sydney has had a strong international presence in academic philosophy ever since the arrival of the Scottish-born philosopher John Anderson in the 1920s. Other distinguished Sydney-associated philosophers include:

  • John Passmore
  • John L. Mackie
  • David M. Armstrong
  • David Stove
  • Charles B. Martin
  • Peter Godfrey-Smith

Other famous University of Sydney–linked persons include:

  • Physicist and chaos theory pioneer, Robert M. May
  • Soprano, Joan Sutherland
  • Poet, Les Murray
  • Novelist, Howard Jacobson
  • Noted feminist author, Germaine Greer
  • Influential literary critic, Clive James
  • Noted art critic and historian, Robert Hughes
  • Sinologist and essayist, Simon Leys (Pierre Ryckmans)
  • Film directors Bruce Beresford, Peter Weir, Phillip Noyce & Jane Campion

What is University of Sydney known for?

#41 World Rank
#45 World Rank
#49 World Rank
#50 World Rank
#55 World Rank
#55 World Rank
#59 World Rank
#62 World Rank
Social Work
#68 World Rank
#69 World Rank
Earth Sciences
#77 World Rank
#77 World Rank
Religious Studies
#83 World Rank
#95 World Rank
Criminal Justice
#100 World Rank
#105 World Rank
#108 World Rank
#111 World Rank
#125 World Rank
Political Science
#151 World Rank
#157 World Rank
#185 World Rank
#216 World Rank
#217 World Rank
Computer Science

Influential People

Who are University of Sydney's Most influential alumni?

University of Sydney's most influential alumni faculty include professors and professionals in the fields of Education, Anthropology, and Nursing. University of Sydney’s most academically influential people include Germaine Greer, Robert Hughes, and Clive James.

Germaine Greer
Germaine Greer

Australian writer and public intellectual

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Robert Hughes

Australian critic, historian, and writer

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Clive James
Clive James

Australian author

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John Harsanyi
John Harsanyi

Hungarian economist

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Vere Gordon Childe
Vere Gordon Childe

British historian and archaeologist

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Judith Wright

Australian poet, environmentalist and Indigenous rights campaigner

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Grafton Elliot Smith
Grafton Elliot Smith

Australian anatomist

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Les Murray
Les Murray

Australian poet and critic

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Nevill Drury
Nevill Drury

Australian editor and publisher

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Clive Hamilton
Clive Hamilton

Australian public intellectual

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Steve Keen
Steve Keen

Australian economist

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Catherine Waldby
Catherine Waldby

Australian academic, researcher and author specialising in social studies of biomedicine

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