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John Hubert Davies

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John Hubert Davies (1858-1918)

1919 Obituary [1]

JOHN HUBERT DAVIES was born at Blakeney, Gloucester, in 1858, and was left fatherless when 14 years of age.

After receiving his early education at a private school in the South of England, he went for 10 years into a merchant's office where he received a sound commercial training. During the latter part of this period he studied mechanics, physics, and chemistry in his spare time, and in 1882 he decided to give the whole of his time to these subjects. He formed a small workshop and laboratory for electrical and chemical research, devoting his attention mainly to the production of a voltaic cell in which electricity could be produced direct from coal.

Lack of funds, however, prevented his continuation of the work, and in 1883 he obtained an appointment in the drawing office of Messrs. Woodhouse and Rawson of London, remaining with the firm until 1887, when he left in order to develop certain inventions which he patented. He returned to the firm a year later as chief draughtsman and electrician.

In 1889 he accepted an engagement to proceed to South Africa to supervise the erection of electric light plants for three gold mines on the Rand, and he was retained as consulting electrical engineer to Messrs. Howard, Farrar and Company.

Two years later he started in Johannesburg on his own account as an electrical and mechanical engineer, establishing the business of Messrs. Hubert Davies and Company, and he was associated from that time with most of the pioneer electric lighting and power plants in South Africa, either in a consulting capacity or as contractor. He also interested himself in nitrate discoveries. He acted as consulting engineer to - among other firms - the Johannesburg Lighting Company, Pretoria Lighting Company, East London Municipality and many gold-mining companies.

During 1895 and 1896 he built and equipped an electric surface haulage at the new Modderfontein gold mines. About this time he took into partnership Mr. William Spain, and the firm was carried on under the title of Messrs. Hubert Davies and Spain until 1907. During this period a great amount of electrical plant was installed on the Reef and elsewhere.

In 1907 the partnership was dissolved and the firm again became Messrs. Hubert Davies and Company, with Mr. Davies as sole partner. This arrangement continued until 1918, when he converted the business into a private limited liability company, with the title of Messrs. Hubert Davies and Company, Limited.

He died at Cape Town on the 12th December, 1918. By his death the electrical profession loses one of the few remaining pioneer electrical engineers in South Africa, and his lifelong benevolence will make his memory endure in the hearts of all who have had the privilege of his friendship.

He was elected a Member of the Institution in 1890 and served as Local Honorary Secretary and Treasurer for the Transvaal from 1899 until his death. He was also a Foundation Member of the South African Association of Engineers and Architects, and read the first paper submitted at their first meeting held in Johannesburg on 27th June, 1892, entitled "Electrical Transmission of Power."

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