blacksmith, inventor, businessman
17 June 1842 — 23 September 1920
John Furphy set up a blacksmith's forge in Shepparton in 1873. At this establishment he produced a range of agricultural equipment, much of it of his own design or invention.
The best known of his products was the 'Furphy Water Cart' (see picture on right) which came into its own during the First World War. In the battlefields of Europe. Often the only source of water for the Australian troops was the Furphy Water Cart. Diggers would gather around the carts, much the same way that modern day office workers might gather around the water cooler or coffee machine, and yarns would be exchanged and 'news' of dubious veracity provided by the cart drivers who had come in from a different area of the front. Over time, an unfounded rumour became known in Australian vernacular as "a Furphy" and the expression is still commonly used today. (See our Melbourne Quiz for other Victorians whose names have entered the language.) Nowadays those interested in unsubstantiated rumours usually subscribe to high profile email newsletters. We should also mention that, although there seems no dispute that the colloquial word "Furphy" is related to Furphy's liquid cartage equipment, it may have a less savoury origin. Furphy's carts were also used to remove liquid sewerage from the front lines in WWI and it may be this function (and content) was the original source of the slang "Furphy"
Furphy's water carts always had a phrase or homily cast into their back panels. A typical one reads:
GOOD BETTER BEST - NEVER LET IT REST,
TILL YOUR GOOD IS BETTER,
AND YOUR BETTER - BEST
References and resources
In-line References and Citations: White Hat uses in-line references, sources and notes. Wherever you see a small white hat , rest the pointer over it for a second and a note or reference will appear.
- Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, Melbourne University Press, 1972, pp 225—226 - an online version of the John Furphy entry can be found here
Some useful resources on inventions and inventors:
Lord Howard Florey
The Deakin T2 Car
Who is the Inventor?
- You will find numbers of useful resources in our free newsletter - Inventions & Innovations - the White Hat guide
- The White Hat listing of forthcoming events related to inventions and innovation
- The Australian Institute for Commercialisation (AIC) is a leading service organisation helping innovators achieve commercial success. Around Australia they help business, research organisations and governments to convert their ideas into successful outcomes.
- Scienceworks in Melbourne, the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney and the CSIRO Discovery Centre in Canberra provide excellent resources in understanding Australian inventions and innovation.
- The ABC television series Landline regularly features Australian innovation and inventions. Unlike many gee-whiz pop science programs, Landline usually provides thorough and unhysterical coverage of Australian breakthroughs relating to country Australia together with their commercial ramifications. (You do need to watch the Sunday or Monday morning broadcast however, rather than the shortened Monday evening version.) Unfortunately, the same is not true of the current series on the ABC called The New Inventors. Made in infotainment style it chooses to present only a cursory investigation of the invention and skates over the top of the issues involved in successfully bringing an invention to market. Many of the products presented are not really inventions but design improvements, but any exposure in the media for creativity in such areas is to be welcomed and applauded.
- You will also find useful information at Intellectual Property (IP) Australia, The Inventors' Association of Australia and The Triton Foundation (founded by George Lewin, inventor of the Triton Work Bench) and Innovic, a Victorian organisation which provides advice on the bringing to market of innovations..
Some useful books on inventions and inventors
Edison in the Boardroom Revisited:
How Leading Companies Realize Value from Their Intellectual Property