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Taylor, George Augustine (1872–1928)

from Construction and Local Government Journal

George Taylor, flying at Narrabeen, 1909

George Taylor, flying at Narrabeen, 1909

National Library of Australia, 24152644

In the tragic passing of George Augustine Taylor, our well-known and well-loved editor, who was taken suddenly on Friday, January 20th last, we mourn a man who could ill be spared, and we feel that readers of "Construction" and the Australian public generally will mourn with us the loss of so valuable and distinguished a citizen, whose achievements illumined the world of art, letters, radio, civic planning, science and engineering, and many divisions of public life.

Not only our own sphere, but the world at large is the poorer for the passing of such a kindly, genial and good-humoured personality, apart from his invaluable services to the world at large and Australia in particular, in the multitude of public interests for which he put up a fight.

The essence of George A. Taylor's personality lay in the fact that he was before all things a great artist. The fine touch and keen understanding of the artist were clearly demonstrated in all the numerous great tasks which he undertook. An infinite capacity for taking pains, bold vision, coupled with prompt and fearless action and remarkable insight, were the driving forces which enabled this great artist to build the noble works which remain as his finest memories.

Commencing life in apprenticeship to an architect, Mr. Hobbs, he gained the necessary experience to fit him for practice in that profession, and his groundwork in construction and building art was a sturdy foundation for so versatile a career. His brain and talents, however, were not of the kind to be circumscribed and confined within the limits of one profession. His was pre-eminently the creative temperament, and in the cycle of time he turned this faculty to architecture, engineering, survey draughting, mapmaking, town planning, geology, astrology, music, art and cartooning, poetry, journalism, authorship, military, wireless and aerial qualifications and development, and last, and perhaps foremost, invention; so his rightly ranks as one of the most brilliant and vivid individualities of the century.

At an early stage of Mr. Taylor's career he became a cartoonist and his brilliant technique, playfulness of ideas, originality, keen humour, and gentle art of satire, as well as his great knowledge and penetrating insight into leading personalities and events of the time, soon won him honours in this sphere. He was the first Australian artist to gain the coveted distinction of acceptance of work in London ''Punch," to which he became a constant contributor.

It is in this art, perhaps, more than any other of his work that the delicacy of his wit, the fineness of his touch and nature and the nobility of his soul are revealed. Mr. Taylor's cartoons were reproduced in leading journals— the Boston "Arena," New York "Life," Sydney "Bulletin," Melbourne "Punch" and many others in the Commonwealth. For thirty years he had been Art Critic for the "Studio," London, the leading medium on art matters.

Entering the sphere of journalism, in partnership with his life-mate, Mrs. F. M. Taylor, he reaped such success with that pioneer architectural and building journal "Building" as encouraged him to venture further as the proprietor and publisher of various technical journals, and to build up a successful business as the publisher of a group of journals, of which, at the time of his death, he was editor, with his wife, always his close colleague and collaborator, as Managing Director. The journals mentioned include: — "Building," "Construction and Local Government Journal," "The Australasian Engineer," "The Commonwealth Home" and "The Radio Journal of Australia."

Among the many tributes that might be paid to his memory we must place first the fact that he was a home builder. The happiness of his domestic life was apparent to all those who gained admittance to the home sphere of himself and his wife, whilst to those not so privileged it was exemplified in the many books he wrote on Town Planning, Radio, Aviation and other kindred subjects dear to his heart, which were invariably dedicated "To the best pal — my wife," or in similar sentiment.

As a man sows he reaps, and George Taylor reaped such felicity in private life, and success in the many national and international public schemes which he furthered or promoted, as surely testified to a guiding foresight and wisdom in most things he undertook, as well as to the enthusiasm and tireless energy with which he pursued whatever objective was uppermost in his mind — if one out of the numerous in which he was always actively engaged may have been said to be uppermost.

No hint of parochialism ever entered into his life. His interests were as wide and far-reaching as his talents and accomplishments were varied.

In the many fine tributes published herewith he is variously described as a good home-builder, good citizen, and a fine builder of Empire, and these tributes are all equally well deserved.

Whether at home or abroad he worked with equal keenness for the mission or missions on hand. Like a true helmsman his eyes scanned the widest horizon for events or activities that would be likely to bear upon, an Empire, building policy, which was ever the one adhered to in practice as well as in editorial policy.

Thus we find him imbued with equal enthusiasm in the objective of establishing the peace of the world, through the League of Nations, forming the International Radio Association, at Geneva (established by him in 1924), fighting tooth and nail for national Australian developments in securing a great Exhibition for Sydney in 1931; in the formation of the Association for Developing Wireless in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji; or for national Australian sentiments, as exemplified in his fight for Canberra. This fight extended beyond the dreams of a mere visionary in that he condemned Government money-wasting methods and by a petition to Sir Joseph Cook, signed by about 800 architects, secured preference for the original design of Walter Burley Griffin, and was thus instrumental in obstructing a mongrel departmental plan for the ideal capital.

Always inspired with Australian sentiment and most active where Australian progress was to be secured, from the outset of his career he was interested above all in the invention, promotion and development of radio and aerial sciences, in which he saw the coming means of transport and communication, not only as far as linking the furthermost parts of Australia, one to another, were concerned, but also the most advanced means of world communication, by which Australia would be placed in more intimate touch with the world's affairs and very much more securely placed on the world map.

In the compass of this short article we must necessarily pass over the intervening years of experiment work and invention to which George Taylor devoted his life, and dwell only upon such outstanding feats as the formation of the Wireless Institute in 1910 (this was the first Wireless Association formed in the British Empire and it was instanced at the last annual general meeting of the Association for Developing Wireless in Australia, held prior to Mr. Taylor's death, January 18th, that it was largely through that body there had sprung up a general knowledge of radio; so that the big percentage of wireless engineers in Australia owed their personal knowledge to Mr. Taylor. The success attending radio in Australia was mostly due to the rise of wireless engineers); the securing of the Royal Commission on Wireless to remove the hampering restrictions put upon wireless by vested interests, one of the greatest efforts in the interests of wireless science, which has suffered an irreparable loss in the death of Mr. Taylor, who was ever its most disinterested and unselfish champion.

He was the first to establish wireless communication between moving trains (interstate expresses), 1911; direction of a model airship by wireless, 1912; firing a gun by wireless waves in 1912; and he demonstrated all these together with a wireless foghorn and fire alarm. He also formed the first wireless military camp at Heathcote in 1911.

Wireless photography was demonstrated by him in those days, leading up to his recent invention of an apparatus for transmitting coloured pictures by wireless, and, immediately preceding his death, he was engaged in developing an invention for making the blind see by radio, and he has devised a burglar alarm which is operated by no other power than the human shadow passing in front of a safe or strong room.

Mr. Taylor flew the first heavier-than-air machine in the form of a motorless aeroplane in 1909, for which the Aerial League of Australia presented him with a shield, designed by Gilbert Doble, sculptor, in memory of this first flight.

He was made a member of the Royal Geographical Society in recognition of his bird's-eye photography innovation in military maps; a member of the Royal Astronomical Society for his theory of moon life; and an associate of the Institution of Engineers, Australia, for his contributions to engineering science.

He founded the Institute of Local Government Engineers (and thereby secured recognition of Local Government Engineers); the Town Planning Association of Australia; Wireless Institute; Radio Interests; Listeners'-in League; District Betterment Boards (of which that of Newcastle was the first and most striking example), and formed the N.S.W. Aerial League in 1909.

He also devised a system of locating sound, afterwards adopted in the Great War in connection with submarines and guns. He was map maker for the Australian Intelligence Corps and taught Australian soldiers map making and map reading for use during the Great War, besides being responsible for many other similar activities.

As aerial expert he joined the N.S.W. Intelligence Corps, in which he did valuable service during the war, and attained the rank of Captain.

Thus, while labouring under the disability of physical frailty, which rendered him unfit for active service abroad, with undaunted spirit he did active brain service both at home and abroad; and few who knew him could doubt but that it was a fine and courageous spirit that shed so great a lustre from so frail a body.

Added to the many tributes which George Taylor received was one which came to hand, rather significantly, on the 20th January, from the King, in recognition of his recent efforts to clear up radio scandals.

This final tribute to his life services in the interests of radio is a fitting close to such a career, and to this article.

Original publication

  • Construction and Local Government Journal, 25 January 1928, pp 19-20 (view original)

Other Obituaries for George Augustine Taylor

Additional Resources

  • Trove search
  • sketch, Construction and Real Estate Journal (Sydney), 16 March 1938, p 8
  • tributes, Construction and Local Government Journal (Sydney), 25 January 1928, pp12-18
  • funeral, Sun (Sydney), 21 January 1928, p 8

Citation details

'Taylor, George Augustine (1872–1928)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/taylor-george-augustine-8756/text35113, accessed 23 September 2018.

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