Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria
Born Victoria, in 1862, died in Sydney, NSW, 19 April 1940.
Bickford came to Western Australia from Victoria in 1894 to manage a furniture store. He was obviously well acquainted with Mueller, who nominated him as a Fellow of the Linnaean Society, possibly in 1895, for his study and lectures on orchids in Victoria, to which he was subsequently elected on 5th January 1897.
Bickford was the inaugural president of the Mueller Botanic Society in Western Australia and instrumental in its founding in 1897.
Bickford served as President of the Society from 1897 to 1902, then as a councillor before the cessation of the Society in 1903, when it merged with and became the Western Australian Natural History Society (enabling both geology and zoology to be part of the Societies studies). He was elected a councillor of the newly amalgamated Society. Bickford was a confidant of the Premier of the Colony and subsequent State, Lord John Forrest, and a Justice of the Peace.
Bickford served as a Perth City Councillor (1898-1901) and was convener of the General Purposes/Parks and Gardens Committee which laid out Perth Gardens, especially Perth Park, now Queens Gardens and Hyde Park.
He wrote several major articles on Wildflowers:
- The Vegetation of Western Australia. Western Australian Yearbook 1896/97, pp. 279-305.
- History of Plant Life (published in Journ. Proc. Mueller Botanic Society W. Aust. vol. 1, pp 1-8 (Sept 1899) (also in the West Australian Saturday 5th Aug 1899, page 11 and Western Mail 8th Sep 1899, p. 26).
- The Sleep of Plants (lecture on 27th Feb 1900, Web ref. 5) West Australian Friday 25th May 1900, page 2)
- The Protection of the Wild Flowers of Western Australia (lecture on 24th July 1900, discussion published in Journ. Proc. Mueller Botanic Society W. Aust. vol. 1, p. 7 (1900)
- Wildflowers of Western Australia (Web ref. 6) in Journ. Proc.Mueller Botanic Society W. Aust. vol. 1 (4): 3-19 (1899). The second part of this series was given at the Society on 23rd Oct 1900 but never published. This talk was illustrated by paintings by Margaret (Lady) Forrest, Lucy Creeth, Miss E. Outram and Noel Doyle Kidson.
Bickford chaired the collecting subcommittee on Myrtaceae, other members being J. Allen and J. Pearl.
However, Bickford also had powerful enemies. On 15th September 1901, an anonymous source wrote a blistering article in the West Australian Sunday Times about the Society, which had received a government grant of 50 pounds to print and distribute the Journal:
"a Botanic Society which really means a Bickford agency. The excursions are simply picnics at the people's expense for the honour of Bickford."
Bickford appears to fade from prominence in 1904, a clue to this demise lying in a report in the West Australian on 23rd March 1904 where it details the bankruptcy of Bickford's furniture business, which was finally concluded in August 1905.
Bickford apparently left Western Australia for New South Wales probably in 1906 or 1907 and apparently ceased any further involvement with botany.
In his brief note on Bickford, George (2009) notes that there are specimens collected by Bickford from New Norcia and Mount Eliza at Kew in the Herbarium of Alexander Morrison.
Source: Extracted from: Keighery G. (2015). What happened to Ernest J
Bickford F.L.S. and his collections? Australasian
Systematic Botany Society Newsletter 164:
12-14. [consult for source references];
Keighery G. (2015). The life of Ernest Bickford – an addendum, Australasian Systematic Botany Society Newsletter 162-3: 17. [consult for source references];
George, A.S. (2009) Australian Botanist's Companion, Four Gables Press, WA. [consult for source references]