William Cochrane was born in Blackbrook, Dudley (West Midlands) on the 23rd of January 1837. He was educated at a private school in Wilmslow (Cheshire) then King’s College (London). He was elected to Associateship of the college in 1854. Cochrane intended to proceed to Cambridge but the breakdown of his father’s health forced him to alter these plans.
Cochrane went to his father’s works and collieries in Staffordshire and to the North of England in 1857. He came to Newcastle upon Tyne in 1858 and was engaged in the sinking of Elswick colliery. Cochrane was connected to mining properties in South Wales and South Yorkshire. Futher, he was the director of, and consulting engineer to, the Blackwell Colliery Compoany Ltd. and Nunnery Colliery Company Ltd. Cochrane is best remembered for his connection with mechanical ventilation, and his instrumental part in the introduction of the Guibal.
From 1875 to 1876, Cochrane co-operated with A. Freire-Marreco and D. P. Morrison to investigate conditions in which coal dust will explode. Necessary experiments were carried out at Elswick colliery.
Cochrane was elected member of North of England Mining Institute and Mechanical Engineers in 1859. He was elected as a member of the Council in 1866, and as Vice-President in 1870. From 1890 to 1891, Cochrane was President of the Institute. He was the honorary secretary of the meeting of the Institute held in Machester in 1865, and was appointed to the committee to report upon the Systems of Underground Haulage of Coal. Cochrane was a representative of the North of England Mining Institute on the Council and the Finance Committee from its formation in 1889. In 1868, he was elected member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Cochrane was a member of the Council of the Durham College of Science and in 1901 Durham University conferred upon him an honorary degree of Master of Science (MSc).
Cochrane founded the Sick Children’s Hospital and served as their honorary secretary for 25 years. In 1898, he succeeded his brother Charles as chairman of Cochrane and Company Ltd. In 1859 he married his wife, Eliza, with whom he had two sons and one daughter. William Cochrane died on the 25th of November 1903 at Oakfield House, Gosforth.