William E. Dawson, analytical chemist, owned the firm W.E. Dawson & Co., Assayers and Analysts, in Market Street South, Pretoria. In April 1885 he applied to the government of the South African Republic (Transvaal) for an appointment, or recognition, as government mineralogist, analytical chemist and assayer. His application was successful, for between November 1885 and 1888 he analysed many samples for the government, particularly quartz and other rocks. During 1886 he assayed a number of specimens sent to him from all over the Witwatersrand and found that those received on 5 July from the farms Elandsfontein, Roodepoort and Vogelstruisfontein contained payable amounts of gold. As a result of his report the State Secretary, W.E. Bok, asked J.G. Wood, a director of mining companies, to report on the prospects of the gold reef. Wood's report was very favourable.
Dawson's contribution to mineralogy took the form of a brief note, "On a mineral found near Pretoria (chromate of lead)", which appeared in the Mineralogical Magazine (1886, Vol. 6, pp. xviii-xix). In January 1894 he applied to the government for the right to provide electric lights for Potchefstroom. He died the next year and was survived by three children.