Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 14, 1881
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Dr. Hector, the retiring President, then delivered an. address.


He thought, from the report just read, that the Society might be congratulated upon the work done during the past year. It had not been brilliant work, and they had missed the lectures of previous years on special subjects interesting and instructive. This had been the case chiefly because the hall had been required for other purposes, and their meetings could not be held regularly. He trusted before next year that one of the great drawbacks to making these lectures attractive would be removed, and that the lime-light apparatus would be completed, so that it would be possible to make illustrations visible to all present. Great improvements had been effected in the Library arrangements, and Mr. Kirk had been appointed Librarian, and would be responsible for the books of the Society. They had now a really very excellent library of 5,000 volumes, and the catalogue was available in manuscript for the use of members. In connection with the Museum, it had always seemed to him to be a great drawback that there had not been more scope given for rendering the large collection and library more available for the purposes of direct

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tuition, but he might say that arrangements were now in contemplation by which lectures would be carried on in connection with the College. Collegians who desired to study these subjects would, under the arrangements he contemplated being given effect to, be able to attend classes at the Museum and Library, which would be conducted by competent persons. He hoped these classes might be open to members of the Society, and to such of the general public as desired such a course of study. With reference to the work of the past year, it had been chiefly the reading of papers. This kind of work required the co-operation of members residing in different parts of the colony in order that the results might be useful. As an instance of this he might particularly refer to the paper by Mr. Buchanan on “Some diseases of sheep and cattle in New Zealand.” These diseases were propagated by the development of certain minute forms of animal life, and the symptoms ought to be studied by the different flock-owners in the colony, and the observations communicated to the Society, or to some person engaged in these investigations, for the purpose of comparing results. The progress of these diseases had been studied to a remarkable degree of late. As had been stated by Mr. Travers during the discussion on one of these papers, there were already signs of our acquiring the means of warding off these diseases and protecting animals from their inroads in the same way as we now-though very imperfectly here-protect the community from the attacks of smallpox. This important matter was well worth the attention of all members of the Society who took an interest in scientific researches which had a direct bearing upon the welfare of the human race. With reference to smallpox, the apathy displayed as to the best means of protecting ourselves from the scourge appeared to him to be almost criminal. We were natnrally protected against the incursion of a vast number of diseases, but an outbreak of smallpox here would be disastrous. In the first place, comparatively few of the people of New Zealand realised the horrible nature of this disease, and vaccination is a matter in which only partial interest is taken. If the matter were brought more prominently before the public by proper means, aided by compulsory vaccination, he thought it quite possible that we might get rid of the necessity for the quarantine system. We might then take our chance of the small number of cases which might occur in the community. There had been a great cry raised of late in favour of what was called animal vaccination, that was vaccination with lymph taken direct from the calf, instead of with lymph taken from the arm of an infant. In his opinion there was a good deal of misapprehension in this matter. Vaccination was really sowing the seed of smallpox in the system in the same way that carrots or turnips were sown in a garden. These germs of disease lost power by passing through a certain diluting process; and some time ago a proposition was even made to dilute the virus with milk. There was no doubt that lymph could be passed through a calf and then used; but in any case everything depended on having pure seed. Those who advocated animal vaccination must take care that the body of the animal selected did not contain the seeds of other diseases; and those who were in favour of human vaccination said that the dread of other diseases arose from careless vaccination, and the taking of lymph from the arms of unhealthy children. In both cases it was necessary to take great care that the seeds of any other form of disease were not introduced by vaccination; and for his part he did not see any greater risk attending arm-to-arm vaccination than in what was termed animal vaccination. The Government had been put to great expense in providing the means of vaccination, and it was to be hoped that an unreasonable prejudice against it would not exist much longer. He had been led to make these observations because he had been thinking over the subject a great deal of late. It was a subject open to much discussion and calm thought for the purpose of getting rid

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of the cobwebs of prejudice which surrounded it in the public mind. Another interesting paper is one by Mr. Travers upon the effects of certain floods. In arranging the papers of the “Transactions” for the printer, he found that a valuable paper was read before the Otago Institute by Mr. Arthur on a similar subject, and both opened up a question of great importance and interest. Mr. Arthur had shown that storms could be gauged in such a manner that we could ascertain what amount of rain was likely to be deposited upon a certain area of country. Advantage might be taken of this knowledge to erect dams to hold the quantity of water that might fall within a given time. These dams might be placed in favourable positions for trapping the water, and by performing the same functions as Lakes in Alpine districts, and only allowing it to flow slowly to the sea, would thus prevent the damage done by floods. Every person could find time to take the reading of a rain gauge, and by a comparison of results much valuable information might be thus gathered. He again adverted to the necessity for systematic Magnetical observations in New Zealand. Not long ago Professor Stokes, one of the secretaries of the Royal Society read a remarkable paper on the effect of electrical storms caused by revolving currents of air which passed over distant parts of the earth's surface possessing extremes of temperature. He (Dr. Hector) thought we might be on the brink of discovering some link between these electrical storms and earthquakes, but to solve this qeustion would necessitate a much more complete equipment in our observatories than we possess at present. We must take some more accurate means of recording the passage of earthquake shocks, their duration and locality. In the matter of zoological work the past year would be known as the Notornis year. This bird was once supposed to be extinct like the moa, but now it was to be hoped that more specimens would soon be available for their inspection and study. He might mention that Dr. Buller's new “Manual of the Birds of New Zealand” was now through the press. The last sheets had been corrected, and the work would, in a few days, be in the hands of the public. In botanical work the Society had placed on record some very interesting discoveries, most of which had been in relation to the alpine flora of New Zealand. They had now got a very complete collection of live plants from the mountain ranges, specimens of which had been distributed by the Government to the different gardens in the colony. They had also just received from Mr. Kirk a very complete collection from Stewart Island. A most valuable series of observations commenced by the late Mr. Ludlam had not been carried out, and no one had again taken the matter up. These observations were in connection with the periods of budding and fruiting of various kinds of introduced trees and plants. Much valuable information might be obtained in this manner, and might prevent us making mistakes in the introduction of forest and other trees. After further remarks on various attacks recently made on the uniformitarian school of geologists founded by the late Sir Charles Lyell, Dr. Hector concluded by thanking the members of the Society for the manner in which they had supported him during his term of office as President.