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» William John Wills (1834-61)

William John Wills (1834-61)

Wills was born at Totnes in the English county of Devon and came to Australia in 1853 with his father and brother. After working as a shepherd and assisting in his father's medical practice, he studied surveying and became an assistant to Professor Georg Neumayer at the magnetic and astronomical observatories in Melbourne. With this training and the patronage of Neumayer, who was one of the organisers of the Expedition, Wills was able to obtain the post of surveyor and astronomer.

When George Landells was dismissed, Wills became Burke's second-in-command. His seriousness, intelligence and self-discipline made him a perfect lieutenant, loyal to his leader even when he privately doubted the wisdom of some of Burke's decisions. As a scientist, he maintained his observations even when sheer survival had become the expedition's only goal. His final journal entries, notes and letters, written a few days before his death, display a complete lack of self-pity.