Rev. John Ignatius Bleasdale was born in Lancashire, England, in 1822 and was educated at private schools in Preston, England. At the age of 13 he began studies for the priesthood at the English College, Lisbon. He completed these studies at St Mary's College, Oscott, Birmingham, where he was ordained in 1845, at the age of 23. He served as a military chaplain in Britain for five years before transferring to the newly formed diocese of the Colony of Victoria. His first appointment, in 1851, was to the country mission of Geelong and Colac. He remained there for two years, then transferred to the seminary of St Francis Church, Melbourne. He became vice-president of the seminary when it was transferred to Eastern Hill in 1855.

Bleasdale was deeply interested in science, and his interest was reflected in changes to the curriculum. He was soon an outstanding figure in Catholic scientific circles. He was a popular lecturer and a foundation member of the Melbourne Microscopical Society. He was also a fellow of the Geographical and Linnean Societies and an honorary member of the Medical Society of Victoria. He advocated the establishment of schools of chemistry and mineralogy in association with the proposed public museum of natural history.

Bleasdale established the Catholic Young Men's Society in 1859 and was its spiritual director. The following year he resigned from his seminary position and was transferred to St Francis Church. Throughout the 1860s he continued his work as a writer and committee worker. He became a prominent member of the Royal Society of Victoria, and published papers and lectures in its Proceedings.

His interests also extended to wine, and he wrote a history of Victorian wine. He was chief wine judge at the Intercolonial Exhibition of Australasia, Melbourne, 1867. He also sat on the royal commission that planned the exhibition, entered a display of gems he had collected, and was awarded a medal (NU 18562).

Bleasdale accepted several other public appointments, including a trusteeship of the Melbourne Public Library, Museum and National Gallery and membership of the Denominational Schools Board, the Central Board of Health and the Commission for Technical Education.

In the 1860s and 70s Bleasdale's ecclesiastical appointments included the inspector-generalship of schools and orphanages and a term as private secretary to Bishop Gould. From 1866 he was secretary of the Catholic Education Committee. He was appointed chancellor of the Archdiocese of Melbourne in 1874. His heath began to fail, however, and he resigned his positions and migrated to California in 1877. He withdrew from public life and died in 1884 at the age of 62 after a long illness.

Australian Dictionary of Biography website, accessed 05 Dec 2003.

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