In bringing to a conclusion this, the twelfth session of our Philosophical Institute, I think I am in a position to congratulate you on the progress that has been made since the last annual meeting. The number of papers
read during the session is 22, a number considerably in excess of the average of previous years. The subjects treated of, also—including Botany, Zoology, Geology, Astronomy, Earthquakes and Volcanoes, and miscellaneous—are sufficiently varied to show that the number of our scientific observers has not diminished, nor has their zeal decreased.
At the opening meeting of the session, I announced to you that the Council had acquiesced in a proposal to ask the aid and the concurrence of the various branches of the New Zealand Institute, in bringing before the Government and in representing the advantages which would accrue to the colony by the establishment of a Marine Biological Laboratory. To this effect a circular was drawn up and a copy forwarded to the Presidents of the Philosophical Societies in the colony, in May last. Answers have now been received from all; and with the exception of one, which declines to join in making any representation to the Government, and one which, whilst fully approving of the principle indicated in the circular, is not prepared to further it at present, all are favourable. Copies of the circular were forwarded also to a number of gentlemen of scientific standing, with a request that they would favour your Council with their opinion and advice; and also, if favourable to the scheme, with their interest. Out of nine letters sent, answers have been received from five gentlemen, all of whom expressed their willingness to support the proposition. Several, however, suggested modifications in the scheme as laid down. This, of course, was nothing more than was to be expected. The details of so large a plan necessarily require much consideration from various points of view before they can be amalgamated into definite and feasible order. The first great point has, however, been, we think, established—that is, the advisability and the practicability of such an institution, and the fact that the project has secured the approval of a large proportion of the scientific men in the colony. As to the economical advantages that would accrue to the country from such an establishment, it is not difficult to show that they would be great. Of the edible fishes which are to be found on our coasts, and in our rivers, comparatively little is known. Their habitats, their spawning (both as to season of year and as to locality), their numbers and comparative value, the best methods of cultivating and capturing them, and, with perhaps few exceptions, their natural history, have never been systematically studied. The cultivation, also, of oysters and edible crustaceans would be fostered, and thus not only would the colony derive the benefit of a largely-increased supply of new, cheap, and wholesome foods, but employment would be found for a considerable population of fishermen, and a class of hardy seagoing people would be founded and encouraged—a class from which, in Great Britain, America, and other countries, the navies are so largely recruited.
I hope before any long time transpires we may see that the Government of this colony is prepared to encourage, if not entirely to maintain, a Marine Biological Laboratory.
I mentioned at the beginning of the session that the Council proposed to commence the formation of a botanical collection, as a special feature in the Museum. A commencement has been made, sufficient to form the nucleus of what it is hoped will eventually become a representative herbarium of the flora of this part of New Zealand.
A short time ago a circular was received from Professor Liversidge, of the University of New South Wales, containing a proposal to establish an Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, somewhat on the lines of the British Association, and asking this Institute to unite in the scheme. Copies of the circular are laid on the table for the information of any members who may take an interest in the proposal.
As a result of some communications which passed between your Vice-president and the Government, your Council has been encouraged to apply for a site on which to erect a building for the purposes of the Institute. Nothing definite has as yet been settled, but we have reason to hope that a suitable piece of land may be obtained.
2. The President then read a most able and interesting paper on Microbes.
3. A number of specimens were shown under the microscope.
4. The President then read a paper on the volcanic eruption at Tarawera.