Ebenezer Syme was born 15 September 1825 at North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland, the third son of George Alexander Syme, schoolmaster, and his wife Jean Mitchell.
He studied theology at the University of St Andrews to be educated for the ministry and was Presbyterian and Unitarian. He worked in Liverpool, Manchester, other north country industrial towns and in Scotland. Syme also began to write reviews and succeeded George Eliot as assistant editor of the Westminster Review. Syme married Jane Hilton, née Rowan, of Manchester, on 21 April 1848.
In April 1853, partly for health reasons, Syme, his wife and three young sons sailed for Australia in the Abdalla. They landed in Melbourne on 17 July 1853 and travelled to the Bendigo Diggings being in partnership with Joseph Abbott.
He soon found work as a journalist. When the Age was founded in 1854 Syme joined the staff and two years later, the paper being in difficulties, it was sold to him and his brother, David.
The events surrounding the Eureka Rebellion were closely monitored by the Melbourne and Victorian regional press. The Age, launched in 1854, edited by Ebenezer Syme was a strong supporter of the Eureka Stockade Rebellion. The Melbourne based Argus and Herald and the Geelong Advertiser and the Mount Alexander Mail also openly supported the rebel's demands.
Ebenezer Syme was elected member for Loddon in November 1856 in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, but as this conflicted with his journalistic work he did not stand again when his term expired in 1859. Syme joined in the struggle for the opening up of the lands. Syme's health, however, began to suffer and he died after a lingering illness on 13 March 1860. He was survived by his wife, four sons and a daughter; they all returned to England, but all the children later returned to Victoria. One son, Joseph Cowen Syme, was for many years part proprietor and manager of The Age. A granddaughter, Eveline Winifred Syme (1888–1961), was a well-known Australian artist. His most notable legacy, The Age, would remain in his family's hands until 1983.
Ebenezer Syme died on 13 March 1860 aged 34 years.
- Our Melbourne correspondent in forms us that Mr Ebenezer Syme, well known as one of the proprietors and for a long time the editor of the Age died yesterday afternoon. Mr Syme was a man of very great ability, and an a journalist was not excelled in Australia- In the course of his career in this colony he committed many serious blunders, which for a long time lowered him in the opinion of the better opinion of the colonists, but lately, he had considerably redeemed himself. As a "man of mark," the colony can ill afford to spare him.
- Ballarat Star, 14 March 1860.