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William Thwaites

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William Thwaites (1853-1907)

1908 Obituary [1]

WILLIAM THWAITES was born at Melbourne, Victoria, on the 13th August, 1853, and died at Cowes, near Melbourne, after a short illness, on the 19th November, 1907.

He was the son of Mr. T. H. Thwaites, an early settler in Victoria, who occupied a prominent position in Melbourne. After receiving his preliminary education at the Victorian Grammar School and the Model School, he matriculated and entered the University of Melbourne in 1870 as one of the first engineering students, under Professor W. C. Kernot, and after a very successful course, in which he gained several scholastic distinctions, he received the certificate of Civil Engineer in 1874, graduated in Arts in 1875, and took the degree of M.A. in 1876.

In 1874 he entered the service of the Victorian Government Railways, and served as an assistant on the survey and construction of new railways until September, 1876, when he accepted an appointment as an engineer and surveyor in the Railway Department of South Australia, where he was engaged on the survey of the lines between Port Wakefield and Hoyles Plains, and between Port Augusta and Government Gums, and on the construction of the Kadina railway.

He then returned to Victoria, and joined the Department of Public Works, where he was employed from 1879 to 1883 on the survey and construction of water-supply and harbour works. In the latter year he was appointed to the position of Engineer for roads, bridges, harbours, rivers and reclamations, under the Inspector General of Public Works. This position he held until 1891, and during his tenure of the office he carried out successfully many important works, besides accumulating the data upon which the late Mr. James Mansergh, Past- President, based his report upon the sewerage of the City of Melbourne.

So well did Mr. Thwaites perform his work, that, on the constitution of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works to take over the water-supply, and to provide for the sewerage of the city and suburbs, he was selected, from a large number of applicants, to be the first Engineer-in-Chief of the Board, and retained this important position until his death. His organization of the department under his charge, and the work which he did in designing and carrying out the many improvements to the water supply, as well as a sewerage system for a population of over half a million, was of the utmost value; and his untimely death caused the keenest regret, not only to the members of the Board of Works, but to the whole community, which he served so ably and well.

Mr. Thwaites served many offices in connection with local institutions, having been President of the Victorian Institute of Engineers, a member of council of the Victorian Institute of Surveyors, a member of the Board of Examiners for Municipal Surveyors, a member of council of the University of Melbourne, and a member of council of the Working Men’s College; but the honour which he valued most highly was his election in 1899 as a representative of Australasia on the Council of The Institution.

Although quiet and reserved in demeanour, Mr. Thwaites was at all times courteous and considerate, and he earned the highest respect alike of his employers and subordinates.

He was elected an Associate Member of The Institution on the 6th December, 1887, and was transferred to the class of Members on the 5th November, 1889.

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