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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Bosch, George Henry (1861–1934)

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

George Henry Bosch (1861-1934), merchant and philanthropist, was born on 18 February 1861 at Osborne's Flat near Yackandandah, Victoria, son of George Bosch, a miner from Bavaria, and his wife Emily, née Spann, of Hamburg. Through the Spanns he was connected with an old Hanseatic Lutheran merchant family. Educated at T. and C. McAlpine's private school, Richmond, he was apprenticed to a Melbourne watchmaker. In 1881, in partnership with his father as Bosch & Son, he started importing watch materials and tools, and that year began business in Sydney. By 1885 he was joined by Emil Barthel and the business gradually expanded into dental and optical supplies and diamonds. He made his first business visit to Europe in 1885; he spoke German well, and was probably assisted by the Hamburg connexion. In 1894 he bought out Barthel but kept the name, Bosch, Barthel & Co.; branches were set up in Melbourne and Brisbane.

His business was his life and Bosch sometimes gave fourteen hours a day to it, to the eventual detriment of his health. A sound and efficient manager, he developed a highly profitable enterprise and invested successfully in stocks and Sydney real estate. In 1924 he retired and, prompted partly by his view of the obligations of great wealth, tried in vain to devise schemes to permit his employees to acquire ownership and control.

In 1909 Bosch had given handsomely to the Dreadnought Fund. His interest may have been directed towards medical science by his knowledge of physical disabilities — his mother was a partial cripple and a friend was paralysed. Impressed by John Hunter, professor of anatomy, he gave £1000 to the University of Sydney in 1924 for research into spastic paralysis and next year £2000 for cancer research; in 1928 he provided £27,000 to establish a chair of histology and embryology. In 1928 he transferred to the university almost £200,000 in property and securities: the income was to be used for chairs of medicine, surgery and bacteriology. On a visit to the United States of America in 1930, Bosch ably carried out some of the negotiations with the Rockefeller Foundation for a grant to build a new medical school building, opened in 1933. He also gave £10,000 in 1928 to Trinity Grammar School, Summer Hill, contributed largely to the upkeep of the Milleewa Boys' Home, Ashfield, and the Windsor Boys' Farm, and assisted St John's Church of England, Gordon.

A bachelor for most of his life, Bosch had few recreations, but literary and political allusions in his letters show him to have been widely read and interested in current affairs. He enjoyed walking and was an honorary treasurer of Manly Golf Club for many years. After a breakdown in health in 1928 he visited east Asia; on 11 October 1929 at Beechworth, Victoria, he married 28-year-old Gwendoline Jupp, who had nursed him. Survived by his wife and two sons, Bosch died of coronary occlusion at his home at Gordon on 31 August 1934, and was buried in the Anglican section of Northern Suburbs cemetery. His estate was valued for probate at £257,046 in New South Wales, £5379 in Victoria and $31,000 in Hong Kong. Believing that sons should make their own way, he left them each £15,000; he provided an annuity to his wife during her widowhood and, after several small bequests, the residue to the university's medical school. His will was contested and eventually the Privy Council awarded an additional £10,000 to each son.

Bosch's portrait by George Lambert is held by the University of Sydney and there is a memorial window to him in St John's Church, Gordon.

Select Bibliography

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Sept, 12 Oct, 13 Dec 1928, 5 Apr, 17 Sept, 12 Oct 1929, 1, 4 Sept 1934
  • Sunday Telegraph Pictorial (Sydney), 21 Oct 1928
  • family papers (privately held)
  • Bosch estate and benefaction papers (Registrar's office, University of Sydney).

Citation details

'Bosch, George Henry (1861–1934)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 29 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

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