History of West Australia/August Scheidel

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


EVER since the renaissance in Italy, a few centuries ago, Europe, more or less, has been dominated by an eager scientific research, which recently has goaded on to destruction and construction the best and strongest intellects of her races. Unflinching in their ambitious desires for mental superiority, her peoples still buckle on their armour and strive as if their best life's blood, the fair name and honour of their flag, were at stake. Success has been submerged beneath the glories of a greater success, and victories and counter-victories still hold the final issue undecided, yet claim from each combatant the golden mead of valour.

August Scheidel HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Hemus & Hall.

In that glorious rivalry which has showered heaps of unexpected and incredible gains on humanity, Germany stands out crowned and decorated with fairer laurels than any. When one hears of such names as Bunsen and the immortal Helmholtz, of Kant and Leibnitz, he must crush out prejudice from his breast and concede the palm to her science halls. The Universities of Germany have held the premier place in science and philosophy for many years, and this is the admission of all who profess the slightest acquaintance with the relative positions and attainments of the many enlightened countries. Yet the wave of intellectual influence has rolled towards the Golden West. America may soon, with her increasing powers, say calmly, yet majestically, to the scientific reputation of the older hemisphere, "Ancient brethren, next to me."

Not a few scientists have come to Australia from Germany to wind the reel of progress. Dr. August Scheidel is one of these, and his name contributes and will contribute to the status of Westralian goldfields. Dr. Scheidel was born in Heidelberg in 1859. He underwent the usual classical education in the German Gymnasium—the kind of education which has secured for Germany a place in the front line of nations. He was then a student, and to fight upwards he became assistant to Dr. Fresenius, the famous professor of chemistry, metallurgy, and mineralogy—the father of chemical analysis—in his laboratory, Wiesbaden, to which students flock from all parts of the world. Dr. Scheidel readily saw that a thorough chemical education and extensive practice in chemical analysis would prove of paramount importance to his professional success. With learning that would have amply fitted him for the duties of his profession he passed to the University of Freiberg to avail himself of the knowledge of its eminent professors, its excellent laboratories, and its scientific equipments. Insight into many marvellous chemical reactions and problems awakened his mind as to the infinite vastness of the subject.

Freiberg—one of the oldest Universities in Europe—conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, with high honours. From there he proceeded to Munich to enter the army. He, however, followed and completed his studies at the University. In the commercial application of his acquirements he practised in prominent and responsible positions, partly in Germany and partly in Italy, two countries which afford great scope for chemical and metallurgical work. Dr. Scheidel next went to England, to attend the meetings of the British Association and of the Iron and Steel Institute; and, further, to study the mining and metallurgical industries of Great Britain. In pursuance of subsequent professional duties he crossed the German Ocean to Sweden, and paid a prolonged visit to the important copper-gold mines of Falun. Returning to London, Dr. Scheidel accepted the appointment of general manager of the New Zealand Gold Extraction Company Limited—a strong English corporation of prominence and weight in the mining world. He sailed for New Zealand in 1888, and on his arrival established his headquarters at the Thames. His scientific attainments, experience, and practical resources were called into requisition. Dr. Scheidel made distant journeys to all the New Zealand gold centres, and erected extensive gold-extraction works on the Hauraki goldfield. Any scientific speculation on a sound commercial basis, which he felt certain would prove remunerative to his company, was entered into with zeal. Then, in the interests of his company, he crossed over to the goldfields of Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria. It would seem as if his stream of energy inundated every Australian goldfield, and what to him was a work of pleasure and satisfaction was to his company accumulation of wealth and an increase in dividends.

In a few years he severed his connection with the company, and took the managership of the Sylvia Gold Mines in New Zealand. He there erected large works for the reduction, amalgamation, concentration, and cyanide extraction of gold ores at Tararu, Hauraki, New Zealand. The concentrating plant, on the German system, proved a great success, as did also his cyanide works, which were the first (outside of Africa) where complete gold ores were treated on a large commercial scale with an undeniably brilliant triumph. The Government of New Zealand published a description of these splendid works in their official mines reports. In 1893 Dr. Scheidel accepted a call to the goldfields of California. Making San Francisco his headquarters, he remained on the American continent till late in 1895. In these years he completed many important works and engagements. For the famous Utica Mine he erected large cyanide extraction works at Angel's Camp. Holding, as he did, many appointments as manager and consulting engineer to large mining corporations, Dr. Scheidel led a very busy life in the States. His professional duties took him to Montana, Arizona, Texas, Utah, British Columbia, and Mexico, and his capabilities were recognised by men of eminence. They saw in him a man of scientific learning, with a practical ability that could resolve the fruits and theories of his mind into visible things.

It was not surprising, therefore, that, in 1894, the Government of the State of California approached him with a commission to write a treatise on the cyanide process. No one was more fit than he to expound the complexities and intricacies of this delicate and immensely economically-important process. Dr. Scheidel accepted the commission, and produced a work which was published by the State Mining Bureau of California in 1894, under the title, "The Cyanide Process: Its Practical Applications and Economical Results". As a contribution to science the life of this valuable standard work in ensured. Dressed in concrete scientific phraseology, it is an exhaustive treatment of the subject, and combines simplicity with clearness. Its success in the United States of America was an immediate consequence of the publication, and metallurgists all the world over have to thank Dr. Scheidel's lucid exposition for an intimate and thorough knowledge of the subject. The book was most favourably received in the stronghold of the cyanide process—Johannesburg. Before he left America in 1895, Dr. Scheidel had gained for himself a scientific reputation which singled him out as a man of uncommon abilities.

From America he went to Europe in connection with important mining affairs. Whilst in London, he entered into negotiations with the New Zealand Mines Trust, a most influential corporation in London, with a capital of £250,000. He came to the colonies as their representative. This company is interested in the chief mines of New Zealand, amongst them the Waihi and the Waitekauri, and nearly all the mining industries of the colonies. Going to New Zealand about the end of 1895, Dr Scheidel inspected the properties there.

In the beginning of 1896 he departed for Western Australia as the company's general manager and consulting engineer. The New Zealand Mines Trust have since acquired a number of properties on the Coolgardie Goldfields, and Dr. Scheidel's position is one involving much arduous work and grave responsibility. The many properties of the company—the North Kalgoorlie Gold Mines at Hannan's, the Lady Charlotte group of leases at Coolgardie, and a number of other important interests are under his personal supervision. The Lady Charlotte group, which comprises an area of sixty-five acres, is being rapidly opened up, and is expected to become one of the best properties in the district. The company is about (1896) to increase their holdings at Black Flag and in the northern districts. In advancing the interests of the company Dr. Scheidel has travelled over wide portions of the goldfields and visited many mines and mining camps, stretching from the Norseman to Mount Malcolm, both included. Thus he has acquired a thorough knowledge of the goldfields and their resources. His company has recently acquired an important town lot in Sylvester Street, Coolgardie, with the object of erecting extensive office buildings, for the administration of the mining concerns in which they are interested.

Dr. Scheidel is a member of the executive committee of the Coolgardie Chamber of Mines. His numerous official duties preclude his accepting other public offices, and, thereby, from rendering the public services that otherwise he would willingly grant. In Coolgardie, where his attainments are known and appreciated, he is regarded as an authority on all mining and metallurgical matters, and also on mining laws. His opinion is valued by his corporation—who alone have claim on his services—for his vast scientific and practical experience, explicitness in his reports, impartiality in his evidences, and sincerity in his statements. Everything is weighed diligently, and is soberly expressed by him.