S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Alcock, Mr William E (advancement of science)

Born: 1847, Birkenhead, England.
Died: 9 April 1911, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

William E. Alcock lived in Port Elizabeth from 1884 or earlier to at least 1896 and during that time participated in various scientific activities. His skills and interests pertained mainly to instrumentation, particularly in microscopy and photography. He joined the Eastern Province Naturalists' Society (1882-1923) in July 1884 and in December of that year, at the society's conversazione, demonstrated his lime light microscope. During 1886 he selected and brought out a dissecting microscope from England to be used at the society's meetings. He served as honorary treasurer in 1887 and 1888, and as a member of the society's management committee in 1891.

In July 1891 Alcock chaired two meetings in Port Elizabeth to form an Amateur Photographic Society, and was elected its first president. During 1896 the wonders of roentgen ray (X-ray) photography were first demonstrated all over the world, following W. Roentgen's discovery of the rays in November 1895. One of the earliest roentgen ray photos produced in South Africa was taken on 13 August 1896 in Port Elizabeth, by Albert E. Walsh*, who was then president of the Port Elizabeth Amateur Photographic Society. Alcock acted as his assistant, while a reporter of the Port Elizabeth Telegraph witnessed the event.

Some time before 1900 Alcock became major of Walmer, now a suburb of Port Elizabeth. He was married to Emily Nimmo.

List of sources:
Bensusan, A.D. Silver images: History of photography in Africa. Cape Town: Howard Timmins, 1966.

Eastern Province Naturalists' Society. Minute Book Vol. 1 (1882-1885), and Vol. 2 (1885-1892). (Africana collection, Port Elizabeth Library).

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS) http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Select Database GEN (South African Genealogical Society) and search for William Alcock.

Plug, C. The introduction of roentgen rays and radiography into South Africa. Adler Museum Bulletin, 2001, Vol. 27(1), pp. 4-10.

Port Elizabeth Telegraph and Eastern Province Standard, 15 August 1896, p. 3, The Roentgen rays in Port Elizabeth. A first experiment. (Reprinted in the Cape Times, 20 August 1896, p. 7).

Compiled by: C. Plug