Home Bright Sparcs
Biographical entry

Home | Browse | Search | Previous | Next
Be a Bright Sparcs Supporter

Alcock, Alfred Upton (1865 - 1962)

Published Sources
Electrical engineer and Inventor
Born: 22 September 1865  Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia.  Died: 1 February 1962  Exmouth, England.
Alfred Upton Alcock was a self taught electrical engineer who, in 1889, formed the A. U. Alcock Electric Light and Motive Power Company in Melbourne. This company later formed the basis of the retail distribution system of the State Electricity Commission. Alcock, in conjunction with Herbert del Cott and Foundation Co. (London), converted Melbourne’s cable trams to electricity powered. Alcock was also a keen inventor who produced numerous contraptions, including one which became the prototype for the development of the hovercraft.

Career Highlights
Alfred Alcock’s first job was in his father's billiard table factory in Melbourne. By 1901 Alcock & Co. had factories in Perth and Brisbane. But Alfred Alcock’s fascination with electricity and engineering soon developed and lead him to a life of experiments and inventions. His first patent was lodged at age 18 and he continued to produce ingenious, technically sound and well crafted prototypes until his death in 1962. The London based Institute of Electrical Engineers was so impressed with his work that they granted him membership. Some of Alfred Alcock’s inventions include:
. A dynamo for electricity generation (mid -1880’s)
. A device for electrically co-ordinating the range-setter and fire-control for artillery (ca 1897)
. An electrically operated ship's telegraph (ca 1899)
. A model which was the basis of the modern hovercraft (ca 1910)
. An electrical meat defrosting process (ca 1922)
. A cabinet to disinfect library books (mid-1930s)
Although most of his inventions showed brilliant problem solving skills and impressive engineering adaptations, few reached commercial production.

In 1988 Alcock and his father established a generating station in Melbourne to supply electricity. A year later he formed A. U. Alcock Electric Light and Motive Power Company and developed a larger power station in Richmond. Within 5 years the company was supplying electricity for over 15000 lights throughout the inner suburbs. In 1899 the Bush Electrical Engineering Co. of England bought out the company. Alfred Alcock almost immediately set about establishing another company, Electric Light and Traction Company, to supply electricity to Melbourne and surrounds. In 1897 he moved to England, where he spent 4 years trying to perfect his artillery coordinating device. The War Office supplied him with facilities to carry out the research but would not commit to purchasing the finished product. He returned to Australia and in 1910 moved to Perth to manage the family business. Seven years later he returned to Melbourne and went into partnership with Herbert del Cott. He retired to England in 1927 but kept on inventing.

c. 1882 - c. 1888Billiard table manufacturing with Alcock & Co. in Melbourne
1883Applied for his first patent (for "improvements in electrical apparatus for registering numbers such as for billiard marking")
1888Co-developer of the Electricity generating-station in Corr's Lane, Melbourne
1889Member of the Institution of Electrical Engineering, London
1889A.U. Alcock Electric Light and Motive Power Company founded in Burnley St, Richmond, Victoria
1896Company awarded an Order in Council (under the Electric Light and Power Act) to continue energy supply, but not to extend into new areas
1897Married Jessie McFarlane in Melbourne
1897 - c. 1900War Office backed development of his invention of a device which electrically co-ordinated the range-setter and fire-control for artillary in Tilbury and Shoeburyness, UK
1899Takeover of A. U. Alcock Electric by Brush Elecrical Enginering Company, UK
1899 - 1910Founding Director of the Electric Light and Traction Company
1910 - 1917Manager of Alcock & Co in Perth
1917 - 1927Returned to Melbourne and formed partnership with Herbert del Cott
1927Retired to England


Structure based on ISAAR(CPF) - click here for an explanation of the fields.Prepared by: McCarthy, G.J & Annette Alafaci
Created: 20 October 1993
Modified: 29 January 2007

Published by The University of Melbourne eScholarship Research Centre on ASAPWeb, 1994 - 2007
Originally published 1994-1999 by Australian Science Archives Project, 1999-2006 by the Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre
Disclaimer, Copyright and Privacy Policy
Submit any comments, questions, corrections and additions
Prepared by: Acknowledgements
Updated: 26 February 2007

[ Foundation Supporter - Committee to Review Australian Studies in Tertiary Education ]
[ Top of page | Bright Sparcs Home | Browse | Search ]