William Harper Twelvetrees [1848-1919] was born at Dunstable, in Bedforshire, England in 1848. He commenced his education at the Madras Grammar School, London. He furthered his studies at the Johanneum Institute in Hamburg, becoming fluent in French, German and Russian, before attending the University of Bonn, where he studied ore-dressing and surveying. After leaving university, Twelvetrees began working at the Voskrensensky Copper Mine and Smelting Works in Eastern Russia. During his nine years there (1871-1880) he studied the copper-bearing sandstones on the south-west-flanks of the Ural Mountains.
In 1882, he went to the Lidjezsi silver-lead mines in Asia-Minor, and after two years, was appointed resident general manager. He remained in the position until 1891, when he emigrated to Tasmania.
After working in Launceston for eight years, in 1899 Twelvetrees secured the position of Government Geologist and Chief Inspector of Mines with the Tasmania Mines Department at the age of 41. In 1914, he relinquished his position of Chief Inspector of Mines, but continued with his duties as Government Geologist until his death in 1919.