Wilhelm Westhofen was born on the 8 May 1842 in Mainz, Germany. He was a successful draughtsman and worked on many key engineering projects both at home and abroad. He studied at the Polytechnic School at Carlsruhe after spending three years in various mechanical engineering establishments in his home town of Mainz. After that Westhofen was employed as an assistant in various large engineering establishments at Cologne, in 1865 he became chief draughtsman at a mechanical engineer’s establishment at Mannheim. In 1867 Westhofen moved to England and worked with different engineering firms including T.R. Crampton, where he worked as an assistant engineer upon the Forth Bridge Works. In 1891, Westhofen moved to South Africa, under the engagement of the colonial government. In August, 1892, he accepted the position of head of the engineering branch of the Public Works Department, Cape Town, comprising all works in connection with harbours, lighthouses, roads and bridges. Westhofen stayed in this position until 1906. He worked as consulting engineer for Kalk Bay from October 1906 to September 1907. In 1907–1908, he was the president of the Cape Society of Civil Engineers.