George Shepherd was a wealthy Melbourne oil company executive who regularly played cards with friends, seated in big upholstered chairs. But the tiny castor wheels fitted to the chairs made them difficult to move.
So from 1934 until 1939 Shepherd researched the physics of existing castors and proposed a new type of wheel that swivelled on an angled axle. With the weight of the chair offset from and below the axle, the wheel could be steered with much less effort. Shepherd made 60 different versions by hand in 1939 and fitted them to the furniture in his house.
Shortages of labour and materials in World War II frustrated his attempts to manufacture castors, but in 1946 his associate Mark Cowen set up Shepherd Castors Pty Ltd to mass-produce them. The final design of this Australian innovation encloses the axle, pintle and lubricating oil in an attractive dustproof dome, perfect for both 'high class' furniture and dirty industrial applications.
Shepherd castors were made under licence in many countries and hundreds of millions have been sold. George Shepherd used some of his fortune to set up the Shepherd Foundation in Victoria, a charitable medical diagnostic centre. By 2004, Shepherd Castors had become a US company and continued the production of George Shepherd's castors.