School of Arts

Neil Huybregts

CRCAH doctoral candidate

'Dr Otway – a sanguine life'


William Beauclerc Otway (c.1819-1866) came to Australia in 1853 and set up the first steam-powered quartz-crushing operation at Ballarat. Other achievements apparently include the first built-for-purpose silver extraction plant in Victoria, and early (possibly first) use of the chlorination process for gold extraction.

Otway was a bit-player, one of the many who tried and failed in the progression toward eventual success by others. While “history is written by the victors” is a cliché, it is often the case that very little is recorded regarding the failures. Otway may be somewhat uniquely placed, as the publicity that attended his efforts means there is a relatively high level of detail available.

This project is both biography and microhistory. Otway’s efforts deserve recognition per se, but his life also provides insights into the commercial, technological, regulatory and social changes that were happening at the time.


Neil is an HDR student with a background in engineering. He has a Bachelor of Applied Science (Applied Physics) (with distinction) degree from RMIT University.