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Bernard Henry Woodward (1846–1916)

by Ian M. Crawford

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Bernard Henry Woodward (1846-1916), museum director, was born on 31 January 1846 at Islington, London, son of Samuel Pickworth Woodward, professor of botany, and his wife Elizabeth, née Tenlon. Samuel was employed as an assistant in the department of geology and mineralogy at the British Museum (Natural History) from 1848. Little is known of Bernard's early life, but he gave his occupation as wine merchant when he married Emma Bertha Ayton at the parish church of Stoke Newington, Middlesex, on 24 August 1875. Suffering from bronchial disease, he came to Western Australia in September 1889 and in 1889-95 was government analyst, responsible for almost all assaying in the State. In 1893 he was also appointed inspector of mineral oils, in 1894 he was retained by the government to examine problems in flour and in 1896 he became assistant examiner in patents.

Furthermore, in 1889 Woodward had been made curator of the Geological Museum, Perth. Incorporating several individual collections previously maintained by his cousin Henry Woodward, the museum was opened to the public in 1891. Next year, when the government added a mixed historical and ethnographic collection to its holdings, the adjective 'geological' was dropped from its name. In 1897, shortly after a fine arts collection was started, the institution became the Western Australian Museum and Art Gallery, and Woodward was appointed its director. Slight, bespectacled and bearded, he filled the role admirably.

Seeking to illustrate good taste, he acquired examples of the classical cultures (Greece, Rome, Egypt) and displayed raw materials adjacent to artistic items. According to his Guide (1900), 'The first function of a museum is to give an example of perfect order and perfect elegance'. Woodward compiled catalogues, wrote papers for scientific journals and from 1910 edited the museum's serial, Records. He acquired grants to pursue research, and the series of free lectures which he first organized in 1905 persisted until the 1960s. A 'prominent figure in the public life of the State', he used the museum and gallery as a centre for culture. He retired officially in 1916.

In 1889 Woodward had promoted the Wilgie Sketching Club (whose members included James Linton and George Poole) and acted as its secretary. Foundation president (1896, 1914) of the Society of Arts, in 1890 he founded the Western Australia Natural History Society (the Royal Society from 1912) and was its honorary secretary. President (1893-98) of the Toodyay Vine and Fruit-growers' Association, he lived on his orangery at Harvey and in the face of indifference advocated protective reserves for indigenous flora and fauna. Woodward died of respiratory disease on 10 October 1916 at Harvey and was buried in the local cemetery. Woodward Park reserve was named after him.

Select Bibliography

  • J. S. Battye (ed), Cyclopedia of Western Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1912)
  • British Australasian, 30 Nov 1916
  • Western Mail, 3 July 1914, 13 Oct, 15 Dec 1916
  • West Australian, 10 July, 11 Oct 1916.

Citation details

Ian M. Crawford, 'Woodward, Bernard Henry (1846–1916)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 22 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


31 January, 1846
London, Middlesex, England


14 October, 1916 (aged 70)
Harvey, Western Australia, Australia

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