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KERNOT, William Charles (1845-1909)

KERNOT, William Charles (1845-1909) P

Pioneering engineer and Professor, William Kernot was alleged to have been one of the first students of the College. He matriculated in February 1861, became a University Lecturer at Melbourne University and Professor of Engineering while still a young man. He was the first President of the Old Geelong Collegians’ Association, formed in 1901. George Morrison cited him as a pupil of the Geelong College though no other evidence has been located confirming his attendance. He was certainly a pupil of Morrison’s at the Flinders National School prior to 1861. Morrison at times taught some university level subjects and Kernot may have been a student in the early 1860s in that context.

Prof W C Kernot.

Prof W C Kernot.

William Kernot was born in 1845 at Rochford, Essex and arrived at Geelong in 1851 where he first attended Christ Church School but then studied under George Morrison at Flinders National School in 1860. At the University of Melbourne he gained his BA in 1864 followed by his MA in 1866. In 1866, Hhe also earned the certificate of engineering at Melbourne. Until 1875 he worked for a succession of government authorities which taught him that his theoretical university training gave him little practical skill in the technical aspects of his employment. Kernot returned to the University of Melbourne as a part-time surveying lecturer in 1868 and as a part-time engineering lecturer from 1869. He prospered, leaving government employment in 1875 continuing to teach at the University but also practising as a consultant engineer. He appears to have been successful within the University enabling him to obtain the newly created post of Professor of Engineering in 1883. He three times visited Europe inspecting engineering works and schools and was a participant in several government enquiries from 1884 onwards.

He was president of the Royal Society of Victoria from 1885-1900; president of the Victorian Institute of Engineers in 1886, 1890, 1897-98 and 1906-07; president of the Victorian Institute of Surveyors in 1883-84, and president of the Baptist Union of Victoria in 1902-3. From 1889 to 1899 he was chairman of the council of the Working Men's College. Not only was he active in education he supported it financially funding a variety of scholarships both at the University of Melbourne and the Working Men’s College. From 1882 to 1900 he was chairman of the New Australian Electricity Co at the time of the introduction of electric lighting to Melbourne by that company. He died at his home in Parkville in 1909.

Sources: S. Murray-Smith, 'Kernot, William Charles (1845 - 1909)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, Melbourne University Press, 1974, pp 20-22. Obituary Pegasus April 1909 pp 35-38; Biography of Professor W C Kernot (Manuscript by Wilfred Kernot: SLV).
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