History of wireless telegraphy and broadcasting in Australia/Topical/Biographies/William Philip Bechervaise

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William Philip Bechervaise[edit | edit source]

William Philip Bechervaise joined the Victorian Posts and Telegraphs Department in the mid 1850s and in February 1858 was appointed station master at the Ballarat telegraph station. He remained in the position for 34 years, finally retiring in 1892 on a well-deserved government pension. In the mid 1870s he was promoted to Postmaster master for Ballarat but also retained responsibility for the telegraph station. The period of this role was one of rapid and major expansion of the Victorian telegraph network, and newly connected stations were being announced every month during the 1860s. He was heavily involved in community activities including the rowing club and cricket club. Much of his spare time was spent as a lecturer in electricity and related subjects at the Ballarat School of Mines, also taking classes teaching the art of telegraphy to large classes. Many of his students went on to take positions with the Victorian public service. In the mid 1870s he participated in several early experiments and demonstrations of telephones and telephony. He was associated with the well-known Ballarat and Melbourne based inventor Henry Sutton and the lesser known telephone experimenter John Palmer. After issues arose in the running of Melbourne telegraph office (and the Victorian Posts and Telegraphs Department generally), Bechervaise was temporarily appointed to manager. He stayed in Melbourne for two years 1878 to 1880 and departed only when the office was again on a sound footing. He had been a corresponding member (country) of the Melbourne-based Telegraph Electrical Society since its inception, but while in Melbourne took a major role in the promotion and operation of the Society. He presented various learned papers on Telegraphy. During this time he worked closely with many of the departmental luminaries: Henry Walter Jenvey (later an early wireless experimenter and arguably our first amateur radio operator), Duncan James Macfarlane McGauran (developer if not inventor of the quadraplex telegraphy system, sadly passed in his prime), Peter Robert Challen (early telephone experimenter), George Smibert (later Chief Electrician) and Louis Septimus Daniel (early experimenter in "Etheric Force"). Having returned to Ballarat, in the late 1880s he was beset with ill-health and took extended leave, taking the opportunity to travel to try to restore his health. In 1892 he took a redundancy from the Department, and his farewell function was strongly attended. He continued in teaching roles at the School of Mines, finally passing in 1905 at South Yarra where he had retired a few years earlier to be closer to family.

A comprehensive biography of William Philip Bechervaise has not yet been prepared, however the following resources have been assembled in preparation:

In the National Library of Australia's Trove website, more than 800 articles (Newspapers & Gazettes) have been tagged as "William Philip Bechervaise" (search publictag:William Philip Bechervaise)

A search in Trove on "W. P. Bechervaise", "Bechervaise Victoria", "Bechervaise Telegraphy" identifies more than 2000 articles, the majority of which refer to William Philip Bechervaise. Those tagged to date are a quick review to identify the most important for this Wikibook. Articles transcribed for Notes are tagged: "!Wikibooks - Bechervaise". Articles reviewed and considered either duplicates of other articles or not of sufficient importance for inclusion are tagged: "!Wikibooks - Bechervaise Not"