Captain F. W. Hutton, F.R.S. (1836–1905).—Captain F. W. Hutton, who was President of the New Zealand Institute at the time of his death, was born in Lincolnshire in November, 1836, and received his earlier education at Southwell Grammar School and at the Royal Naval Academy at Gosport. After serving for some time as a midshipman he left the sea and studied at King's College, London. Soon, however, he received a commission in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and saw active service in the Crimea and in the Indian Mutiny.
He had already devoted some attention to geology, and on his return to London in 1860 he was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of London, and during the next few years gained further practical knowledge of this science by accompanying the officers of the Geological Survey, and in 1862 he published a paper on “The Use of Geology to Military Officers.”
In 1866 he resigned his commission in the army, and came to New Zealand and settled for a time in the Waikato district. Before long he was appointed to the Geological Survey Department, and commenced his geological work in New Zealand by making a geological survey of the Lower Waikato district, and this was soon followed by reports of the geology of other parts of Auckland. In 1871, on his appointment as Assistant Geologist, he removed to Wellington, and resided there for nearly three years, when he was appointed Provincial Geologist, of Otago, and took up his residence in Dunedin. Here he continued his geological work and published a geological map of Otago, and, in connection with the late Professor Ulrich, brought out a work on the geology of Otago.
He had already commenced work also at the zoology of New Zealand, where the labours of a systematist were greatly needed, and in 1871 had published a catalogue with specific diagnoses of the birds of New Zealand. This was soon followed by a catalogue of the fishes, and papers on the bats and lizards, and in 1873 his catalogue on the marine Mollusca appeared, thus laying the foundation for the large amount of work which he afterwards did on the New Zealand Mollusca.
In 1876 he was appointed Professor of Natural Science at Otago University, and had charge of the Otago Museum, which indeed he may be said to have founded, for the building was designed and all the internal arrangements fitted up under his direction, and a large part of the natural history specimens were brought together by his exertions.
About four years later he was appointed Professor of Biology at Canterbury College, and about the time of his removal to Christchurch he published a little work, “Zoological Exercises,” in which he adapted the method of instruction in natural science by Huxley to the special
requirements of New Zealand students. In Christchurch he continued to publish papers on various branches of New Zealand zoology, but these were varied with others on various geological questions, and for some time, owing to the wants of his students, he devoted considerable attention to botany. Later on he had temporary charge of the Canterbury Museum after the death of Sir Julius von Haast, and in 1893 he succeeded Mr. H. O. Forbes as Curator, and acted also as lecturer on geology—for this purpose resigning the professorship of biology.
About three years ago, feeling the strain of lecturing too much for him, he gave up his lectureship, but continued as Curator of the Museum. In March, 1905, he left for England on leave of absence, but almost immediately after his arrival there he had a second attack of the severe illness from which he had suffered about two years before, and though he recovered to some extent he did not survive to reach New Zealand, but died during the return voyage.
Captain Hutton naturally took a large share in the work of the various scientific societies of New Zealand and Australia. He was successively a member of the Institutes at Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin, and Christchurch, and served several times as Secretary, Treasurer, or President in the two last named. He was also an honorary member of the Linnæan Society of New South Wales, Fellow of the Zoological and Geological Societies, and member and President of the Australasian Ornithological Union. In the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science he served as General Secretary for the Christchurch meeting in 1891, President of Section C (Geology) in 1890 and 1898, and President of the Association at the Hobart meeting in 1902. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1892, and in 1904, after the reconstitution of the New Zealand Institute, he was unanimously elected its first President.
Of Captain Hutton's work on the geology and zoology of New Zealand some mention has been already made. Naturally a great part of his time was devoted to systematic work, and many papers dealing with practically all classes of animals will be found in the “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute,” and in the scientific journals of Australia and Europe. To the birds he devoted special attention, and his important paper on the “Moas of New Zealand” (Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. xxiv) requires special mention. He also gave much time to the study of the Mollusca, and in addition to many papers in the Transactions published several catalogues of them, the most important of them being his “Manual of the New Zealand Mollusca,” issued separately in 1880, and in the same way he catalogued many of the different groups of insects. His systematic work was summed up and brought so far as possible to a conclusion in the “Index Faunæ Novæ-Zealandiæ,” edited by him and published by the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury in 1904, and a glance through its pages will show how large a number of the animals recorded from New Zealand have been named and described by him. Two more popular works written in conjunction with Mr. James Drummond deserve mention—viz., “Nature in New Zealand” and “The Animals of New Zealand,” the latter being a beautifully illustrated account of the air-breathing vertebrates of New Zealand.
But Captain Hutton was far more than a systematist, and as far back as 1873 he dealt with the origin of the fauna and flora of New Zealand in a paper “On the Geographical Relations of the New Zealand Fauna” (Trans. N.Z. Inst, v, p. 227), and he returned to the subject again in 1884 and 1885, and a concise and judicial summing-up of our knowledge of the subject will be found in the introduction to the “Index Faunæ Novæ-Zealandiæ.” Of the various explanations offered by him
to account for some of the difficult questions in connection with this subject it is not necessary to speak here in detail—they are well known to all students of the subject, and have long since established Captain Hutton as a leading authority on the distribution of animals and plants.
During the whole course of his career Captain Hutton gave much thought to the fundamental questions of biology. In 1861 he wrote a review of Darwin's “Origin of Species” for the “Geologist,” which showed that even thus early he had grasped and accepted the fundamental principles of the theory of descent, and he continued to deal with various aspects of the question in numerous addresses and lectures. In 1899 he published his “Darwinism and Lamarckism, Old and New”; and in 1902 appeared “The Lesson of Evolution,” containing his Presidential Address to the Hobart meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, and other essays.
In addition to the large amount of work that he personally performed, Captain Hutton greatly aided and advanced our knowledge of the natural history of New Zealand by the advice, stimulus, and assistance which he at all times so willingly gave to younger workers, and his name will always remain inseparably connected with the foundation of New Zealand geology and zoology.