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BOYS, HENRY, surgeon, university administrator, and office-holder; b. 8 Nov. 1775 probably at Sandwich, Kent County, England, the son of William Boys, a prominent surgeon and topographer, and Jane Fuller; m. Maria da Purïfecacao Alves of Lisbon, Portugal, and they had ten children; d. 23 April 1868 at Barrie, Ont.

Henry Boys received the degree of md from the University of Aberdeen in 1805, and later became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of London. For 30 years he served in the medical departments of the British army and the Royal Navy, and in the department of the paymaster-general of the forces. He served throughout the Peninsular war as assistant to his brother, deputy paymaster-general to the Duke of Wellington’s army.

The obligations of a large family forced Boys to commute his half pay in 1833, and emigrate to Whitby in Upper Canada. Here, besides being licensed to practise medicine, he became coroner, collector of customs, and judge of the Court of Requests. During the rebellion of 1837–38, he acted as medical officer to the loyalist forces.

On 11 July 1839 Colonel Joseph Wells*, a man of unquestioned honesty but little accounting ability, was dismissed as bursar and registrar of the University of King’s College in Toronto after hopelessly mismanaging its financial affairs. Lieutenant Governor George Arthur*, who had been requested by Lord Fitzroy Somerset, military secretary of the Horse Guards, to find Boys a position, exercised his prerogative as chancellor of the university and named Henry Boys to fill the vacant position. The council of King’s College accepted Boys as bursar and registrar, from 27 July 1839.

Boys did not treat his new position as a sinecure but worked assiduously to put the financial affairs of King’s College in order. His office was required to handle receipts of more than £15,000 annually and to keep records of the more than 1,800 separate accounts of the university. Boys and his assistants also carried on an extensive correspondence, drew deeds, and recorded the minutes of the King’s College council. His preoccupation with these and other routine tasks prevented Boys from carrying out a much needed overhaul of the defective accounting practices which had been instituted by Wells. It also prevented him from discovering the full implications of activities of certain clerks; in addition to their petty speculation in university lands, of which he had some knowledge, they had used their office surreptitiously to threaten in their own interest creditors of the college who happened to own valuable lots.

When evidence of irregularities in university land transactions came to light in 1845, William Charles Gwynne*, professor of anatomy and physiology and a member of the college council, instigated a full investigation into the state of the bursar’s office. Far from finding Boys unconscientious or incompetent, the committee of inquiry remarked upon his honesty and the “unremitting attention which he pays to his duties . . . and to the ample Evidence afforded by the manner in which his Books are kept, to his accuracy and knowledge of Business.” Boys was similarly cleared of any imputation of misconduct by the commissioners, including Robert Easton Burns, appointed in 1848 to inquire into the affairs of the university and Upper Canada College.

Efforts by the Reform party to secularize the university had moved King’s College into the political spotlight. Boys, in his 75th year in 1850, had already decided to resign. He was apprehensive of “the stability of this appointment, owing to the strong political feelings prevailing about the university.” He also found the work too burdensome at his age and the remuneration insufficient for the support of his wife and seven dependent children. On 17 Oct. 1850, some nine months after the act creating the University of Toronto came into effect, he submitted his resignation as bursar. After an audit of his accounts, the resignation was accepted and, in December, the university senate voted Boys a generous retirement gratuity of £750.

Henry Boys spent the remaining years of his life in Barrie, where he and his family had gone to live with his eldest surviving son. Here Boys contributed his professional services to the relief of the poor and pursued studies in entomology. He was a fellow of the Linnean Society and donated his entomological collection to the University of Toronto. He died on 23 April 1868.

D. W. Rudkin

PAC, MG 24, A13, 6; E1, 19; RG 1, L3, 55, bundle 18, no.73; RG 5, B9, 62, p.525; C1, 198, no.16217; RG 7, G1, 71; RG 68, 1, General index, 1841–67, pp.167, 170. PRO, CO 42/416. University of Toronto Archives, A-68-011 (Office of the Chief Accountant), 109, Final report of the commissioners of inquiry on the affairs of King’s College University and Upper Canada College, pp.46–47, 249–70; A-70-005 (Senate), Minutes, book 1, 7 Dec. 1850, 11 Jan. 1851; A-70-024 (Board of Governors), King’s College Council letterbook, 1839–44, 1, p.1; King’s College Council minute book, 1837–42, 2, pp.99–102, 110–11, 120–21, 143; A-72-050 (Office of the Chief Accountant), 14, package 1d, Boys to P. B. DeBlaquière, 17 Oct. 1850; package 1e, draft minute, 16 Nov. 1850. Arthur papers (Sanderson). Can., Prov. of, Legislative Assembly, Final report of the commissioners of inquiry into the affairs of King’s College University, and Upper Canada College (Quebec, 1852). Globe, 29 April 1868. [John Macara], The origin, history, and management of the University of King’s College, Toronto (Toronto, 1844). [John Strachan], A brief history of King’s College in Upper Canada, from its first germ in 1797, to its suppression in 1850 . . . (Toronto, 1850). The Canadian men and women of the time: a handbook of Canadian biography of living characters, ed. H. J. Morgan (2nd ed., Toronto, 1912). The city of Toronto and the Home District commercial directory and register with almanack and calendar for 1837 . . . , comp. George Walton (Toronto, [1837]). The Toronto almanac and royal calendar, of Upper Canada . . . (Toronto), 1839. Canniff, Medical profession in U.C. W. S. Wallace, A history of the University of Toronto, 1827–1927 (Toronto, 1927). W. F. A. Boys, “Early days of the university,” University of Toronto Monthly, II (December 1901), 1–36. W. S. Wallace, “The first two bursars of the university,” University of Toronto Monthly, XXV (1924–25), 211–13.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

D. W. Rudkin, “BOYS, HENRY,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed November 22, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/boys_henry_9E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/boys_henry_9E.html
Author of Article: D. W. Rudkin
Title of Article: BOYS, HENRY
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1976
Year of revision: 1976
Access Date: November 22, 2014