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JOSEPH BOSISTO, CHEMIST & M.L.A. RICHMOND, VICTORIA (1824-98)

This 1885 1d dull rose on buff Victoria postcard was mailed out to members of the Richmond Cricket Club as an invitation for the Annual Dinner to be held on Saturday 25 July, 1885 in the Richmond Town Hall, dinner commencing at 7.30 p.m. sharp. Although the card was sent by the Hon. Secretary, Henry Brock, J. Bosisto, Esq., M.L.A., the President of the Club, was to occupy the Chair (Figure 1).

 

 

I was surprised to find that Joseph Bosisto had an extensive entry in the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography as well as many other Australian websites. He was a chemist and parliamentarian, born on 21 March 1824 at Leeds, England, son of William Bosisto and his wife Maria, née Lazenby, both of Huguenot extraction. As a child he lived in Yorkshire and Surrey, left school in 1839, was apprenticed to a druggist and gained certificates in 1847 from the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain which later made him an honorary member.

He was engaged by the F.H. Faulding company, and he set sailed in the ‘Competitor’ for Adelaide in June 1848. Soon after arrival he met Ferdinand von Mueller and their friendship lasted nearly 50 years. After a stint at the Forest Creek goldfields he returned to Adelaide and married Eliza Johnston in 1852, and they settled at Richmond, Victoria where he set up a soon-to-be prosperous pharmacy. His decoctions of eucalyptus oil used in a variety of medicinal products were to make Bosisto a household name. The parrot on the label was his most famous trademark (Figure 2).

 

 

His products were known in Britain by 1865 and later in Europe, India and South Africa. In 1882 he became a partner of Felton and Grimwade, and in 1885 his original firm became their subsidiary. When Bosisto had financial difficulties, he mortgaged his share to his partners. He was an earnest man of science with an eye for business. He was founder of the Pharmaceutical Society of Victoria in 1857 and was its president, and co-editor of its Journal. In 1858 he joined the Royal Society of Victoria, was later a councillor, and he published frequently in its Proceedings. His lecturing style was popular and his reports from the Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886 in London emphasized the training of artisans and the need for Australians to study scientifically the growing of silks, vines and tobacco. He collected some 50 medals at international exhibitions and he was awarded the C.M.G., which testified to his repute.

At Richmond he served for 12 years on the municipal council and was mayor in 1865-67. As chairman of the bench for 6 years he was noted for his impartiality and patience. He represented Richmond in the Legislative Assembly in 1874 until he was defeated in 1889; according to the Richmond Guardian, he had became too remote from his electoral committees and constituents, and his age fitted him more for the Legislative Council. After the electorates were realigned, he represented Jolimont and West Richmond in 1892-94. More didactic than forceful, his parliamentary speeches showed him to be instinctively moderate and uncertainly conservative. The highlight of his parliamentary career was his pharmacy bill, introduced in 1876. He also helped to establish the College of Pharmacy, and he was chairman of the Technological Commission and claimed that a university chair of pharmacy would be far more valuable than a chair of philology.

Bosisto lost heavily in the Melbourne building society crashes and spent his last years in straightened circumstances when he died in Richmond on 8 November 1898, pre-deceased by his wife, and without issue. A picture of Joseph Bosisto is shown in Figure 3.

 

 

 

This paper was extracted from the Australian Dictionaryof Biography.

 

 
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