Wellington Philosophical Society.
First Meeting : 5th May, 1909.
Mr. A. Hamilton, President, in the chair.
New Members.—Mr. James B. Gatenby, Mr. H. S. Hart, Mr. E. P. Turner, Mr. Leslie Adkin, and Miss Phœbe Myers, B.A.
Honorary Member of New Zealand Institute.—The Chairman announced that, on the nomination of the Society, Sir George Howard Darwin, F.R.S., had been elected by the Board of Governors of the New Zealand Institute an honorary member of the Institute.
On the motion of Mr. C. E. Adams, a vote of thanks was passed to the Surveyor-General for his action in setting up permanent bench-marks at those places in New Zealand at which tide-gauges were in use. It was resolved that a copy of the resolution should be forwarded to the Surveyor-General.
Address.—The President delivered the following address, entitled “Some Suggestions concerning Scientific Research in New Zealand.”
After thanking you for the honour of election as your President for the coming session, I propose to say a few words on certain aspects of scientific work in this country that may suggest to some of you fresh lines of action, and perhaps encourage those who have already commenced. It must be admitted at once that, although our opportunities in this wonderful country in the southern seas are many, and suitable subjects for investigation are with us on every side, there is one serious deficiency which is soon felt when any systematic work in natural science is attempted: this is the difficulty of access to the sea of literature which is ever increasing and swelling to such vast proportions. Systematic work demands a full acquaintance with the literature of the subject, and that is a knowledge of a special kind. Fortunately, recent years have seen the issue of several valuable publications devoted to the full bibliographical analysis of the scientific work put forward year by year, and a student is therefore now able, if properly informed, to find out without much labour what has been written on the subject on which he is working, by consulting these records.
In countries, dominions, and colonies separated by great distances from the great libraries of Europe and America the absence of works of reference in all branches of science is one of the disadvantages which workers have to overcome as best they may. In this Dominion the governing bodies of the local Institutes affiliated to the New Zealand Institute have spent time and money in gathering together the foundations of a library. The New Zealand Institute itself has been fortunate enough, under the guiding hand of the late Sir James Hector, to obtain a very large number of valuable publications in all branches of science, mainly by arranging for an exchange of publications with other institutes for those issued by the New Zealand Institute, and the publications of the Geological Survey and Museum. The Institute at present exchanges with 178 other publishing societies and institutions; the Museum exchanges with eighty-nine; and the newly reconstituted Geological Survey has also a long list of exchanges arranged for, which, however, are not now placed in the Institute library. The four larger incorporated* societies—at Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin—have libraries of their own, the books in which have been either purchased or presented by various donors. Hawke's Bay has also a nucleus of a scientific library. At the last meeting of the New Zealand Institute, held in January last, I brought forward a proposition that an effort should be made to make these various libraries available to any scientific student in New Zealand, and I have since submitted to the societies the following circular, covered by a letter to the President of each society requesting a statement of their views on the suggestions and a reply to the questions:—
[Footnote] * By “The New Zealand Institute Act, 1903,” the local societies are “incorporated,” not “affiliated” as previously.
“Suggestions for the Better Utilisation of the Scientific Books in the Libraries of the Societies incorporated in the New Zealand Institute.
“It is evident that if each of the various societies attempt to provide their library with scientific works for the use of their members in natural history, ethnology, botany, geology, &c., there would be a very great waste of money in having duplicate copies of expensive works of reference. The following suggestions are therefore made:—
“(1.) That a card catalogue under authors and subjects be made of all the books in the libraries of the societies incorporated with the New Zealand Institute.
“(2.) That six sets of these cards be made for use of each of the six branches of the Institute.
“Remarks.—At the general meeting of the Council it was pointed out that at the present time there is a more or less distinct understanding that books the property of one institute can be borrowed by any member of the institute residing in any part of New Zealand, provided that the borrower makes application through the secretary of his society to the secretary of the society from which the book is borrowed, and the secretary is satisfied that suitable arrangements have been made for the transmission of the book to the borrower and for its return. It is now a practice between several societies. Some of the institutes already possess a card catalogue and others a printed catalogue more or less complete. Under the proposed scheme the various libraries would be distinguished either by coloured cards or by some distinguishing mark on the cards. It is suggested that pro rata contributions be made by the societies for the cost of preparing the catalogue and the set that they are to receive.
“(3.) It is suggested that for the future there should be an agreement as to the class of books purchased by the societies.
“Remarks.—The Canterbury Institute has resolved to specialise in works relating to the Antarctic. It is suggested that Wellington should specialise in the anthropology of the Pacific. It is to be distinctly understood that any library taking up a subject is not in any way precluded from buying books on other subjects if they desire to do so. It is also distinctly understood that any transfer of books from one library to another is not in any way suggested. A joint card catalogue will prevent any necessity for such a suggestion as this. The subject or subjects in which a library would specialise would be governed by at least two considerations—first, the suitability of the subjects for the lines of study usually taken up by members of the Institute; second, by the cost of the subject. The natural-history division could only be under-taken with advantage by a society either having a good nucleus of works on that subject or having a good library fund.
“It is suggested that replies be sent to the following queries:—
“(1.) Is your society in favour of the general idea of a joint library, which all the members of the institutes should be able to use under certain conditions ?
“(2.) Do you agree to arrangements being made by the New Zealand Institute for the preparation of a joint card catalogue, and for the necessary number of copies for each institute ? In case you assent to this question, it does not commit you to your proportion of the cost until some definite idea of this has been submitted to you.
“(3.) Do you agree to the principle of utilisation by the various societies ?
“(4.) What subject do you desire to specialise in for your library ?
“P.S.—Since the letter and circular were written I have found that a similar catalogue to that proposed is in existence in Melbourne. It comprises the whole of the scientific and technical literature in the public libraries, Government departments, and various scientific societies. It was carried out by Mr. Hall, Librarian to the Royal Society of Victoria, and issued by the Government as a printed volume. This form is, to my mind, less suitable than a card catalogue, which can easily be kept up to date year by year.”
The communications received so far point to a workable scheme being eventually evolved.
There are two points only which I consider to be of vital importance. The first is already practically assured—and that is, à consent on the part of the incorporated societies to the use of their books by members of the other branches of the Institute. There will necessarily be some restrictions, but they will not affect the general principle. The second point aims at economizing the funds available for the purchase of books. I am anxious that in the future it shall not be necessary for a library to purchase a work or a set of Proceedings that is already in New Zealand. Scientific serials and works of reference are generally expensive, and if therefore the four or five centres are each to purchase works such as the “International Catalogue of Scientific Literature,” which is now an
important work, it seems to be an unnecessary waste of money (£17 a year). I desire therefore, as a preliminary, to have a card catalogue made, listing all the books in the libraries that are available, and to supply each branch of the Institute with a complete set. Any student consulting the card catalogue will then be able to see if the work he desires is in the country, and the societies will know what works it is unnecessary for them to order. These are the vital points.
A further suggestion is also thrown out, which has, unfortunately, been misunderstood. The Canterbury Branch has announced its intention of specialising in Antarctic literature. I think that this is a move in the right direction, and accordingly I suggested that the others should also specialise in such subjects as New Zealand natural history—the literature of the ethnology of Polynesia or the islands of the South Pacific, or the botany of the South Pacific. In suggesting these subjects, it was never intended that if a library chose to “specialise” in botany it should never buy books in any other branch. However, this view was taken of my suggestion by one society. It would be quite unfair to the members of any society to do such a thing; and we may be quite sure that when Christchurch proceeds to “specialise” on Antarctica it will not fail to add books on other subjects from time to time.
To insure the best results, it will be necessary for the various library committees to keep in touch with one another when ordering books. For instance, the Dominion Museum has just arranged to get the parts of Salvin's work on the Petrels of New Zealand, three of which have arrived. It is a work of great value to New Zealand ornithologists, and it was necessary for a copy to be in the Dominion for them to consult. But is there any real necessity for four or five copies ?
This brings me to a side issue which has not been submitted as yet for consideration. If, as I hope, the libraries of the larger branches of the Institute, and the Institute Library, can be made available for general reference by the members of the Institute, can we not bring into the scheme the libraries of the museums, which are in some cases quite distinct from the Institute libraries, and under other controls ? I am sanguine that this can be done, and I even go further, and think that under special restrictions owners of private scientific libraries might agree to sets of Transactions and perhaps a few other technical works not otherwise available in the Dominion being catalogued as available for bona fide workers.
In all such schemes there must be clear and definite regulations, and I have made it clear that all applications for loans from members must be made through the secretary of the branch institute, and that the institute borrowing is responsible to the branch lending for the return or replacement of the volume borrowed.
It is quite reasonable that each branch institute should be at liberty to have a list of books which are not to be sent away to other branches, although I hope that there will not be many on the list. I know of cases where such exceptions must be made, and in our own case (New Zealand Institute) a like restriction would have, under the terms of the trust, to be made of the books in the Carter Collection.
It is not intended that the facilities for borrowing should be exercised in the case of travels, text-books, or general literature, unless under very special circumstances, and I think that for the present, at any rate, the society which is asked to make the loan must be the judge as to the desirability of making any such exceptions.
It may be urged that the number of scientific workers in the Dominion is small, and that the proper organization of such a scheme will be difficult. I do not think that much labour will be required after things are in working-order; but I am sure that future students will appreciate the greater ease with which they can ascertain if any given paper is available.
By the time that the next annual meeting of the New Zealand Institute is held I hope that we shall have formulated a workable scheme for the widest utilisation of the books in the joint libraries, and that we shall have come to an understanding as to the direction in which future expenditure is to take place. My aims are to make the libraries as useful as possible, and to obviate the necessity for unnecessary expense in duplication of expensive works.
Now for a few words on scientific research, and some directions in which it seems that our members might turn their attention. The higher and purely technical branches of research are in the good hands of our university professors, and it is not of them that I wish to speak to-night; but there are subjects and branches of subjects which are well within the range of our society as a body of members united for the study of the natural history of their country.
Within the last few years a new departure has been taken in studying the natural history of our Dominion. The Canterbury Institute has carried out an organized scheme for researches on the botany and zoology and physical features of the Auckland and outlying islands to the south. The co-operation of members of the Institute was obtained,
and a large amount of valuable work has been done in all branches of science, the results of which are to be published in a separate volume, not in the “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute.” Other important works are being carried out in the Canterbury District by the Canterbury Philosophical Institute.
I should not forget to mention the expedition made by four young men from the South Island to the Kermadec Islands, where they remained for ten months; and I look forward with great pleasure to seeing the result of their labours. The Museum is indebted to Mr. Oliver for a set of plants collected during their stay.
Towards the end of last year this branch proposed to organize a party to undertake a further examination of the Chatham Islands, an area which is of considerable extent and where there is still much to do. Unfortunately, it was found that most of those whose co-operation was invited were unable to go. It is to be hoped, however, that circumstances will be more favourable at the end of this year or in the coming February
During the last few months I have been several times asked to name specimens of insects, &c., from our outlying possessions in the Cook Islands, and I think it is quite time that some steps were taken to have collections made of the natural history of the various islands of the Group; and I think this Society might very well move in the matter. The only work done so far has been the botany, by Mr. Cheeseman. In ethnology and natural history much work is still to be done. One very important work that could be done by some member of the Institute is the gathering-together of the various items that have been published on the zoology of the Cook Group. There are various fish described in papers by Gunther, and other incidental notices in widely scattered papers. The ethnology of the Cook Islands has rather a larger literature, but it is not easily available, and needs collecting and arranging. In entomology there is a good deal of practical work that needs doing, as our principal trade with these islands will always be in fruit, and it is now recognised that a full knowledge of insect foes and friends is necessary for the proper cultivation of fruit, and the study of the various groups of insects, to be of service, must be done systematically.
I will take this opportunity to thank several members of the Institute and the friends in all parts of New Zealand who during the last two years have assisted me in forming a collection of the New Zealand Lepidoptera in the Dominion Museum. During the past season the Museum has been able to employ two collectors in the alpine regions of Otago, and the results have been, notwithstanding the exceptionally broken weather experienced by them, most satisfactory.
Mr. Hudson, in a paper read before the Society in 1893, pointed out the importance of New Zealand biological collections, and urged the necessity of a collection of New Zealand insects; and I am sure that he will be glad that even at this somewhat remote date a beginning has been made of a national collection in a subject in which he has done so much pioneer work. I am glad to say that a number of persons in various parts of the Dominion have commenced collecting insects, and I trust that some will pass in time from the collecting stage to make a serious study of the subject. That section of entomology which is devoted to the study of the swarms of insect pests is of great economic importance, and is now recognised as such in all countries. The rearing of insects can be carried on by almost any intelligent person who can afford the necessary time and patience, and if studied with method, and proper records are obtained, the information may prove of considerable importance, and of assistance to those charged with carrying out the laws and regulations affecting agriculture and fruit-growers. In these, as in all scientific matters, a proper method is absolutely essential, if the work is to be of any use. There is plenty of room for research in the various groups generally known as insects, and there are plenty of short manuals and instructions which give full particulars for the study of any group that you may select by the most recent and approved methods.
One very wide field for inquiry is open to those who collect the Macro-lepidoptera of New Zealand. The variation in the specimens is very remarkable, and, as I hope to be able to show you later in the session, raises many questions not easily answered. There is a mass of literature on all phases of the subject in other countries, but Mr. Hudson and Mr. Meyrick are the only ones who have written much on the variation of the New Zealand species. To deal fully with this matter of variation it is necessary to have much larger series of specimens than is usual in collections.
Several of our members are interested in the study of botany, but few people in Wellington have realised what splendid opportunities they have for short botanical excursions on the uplands of the Tararua Ranges and even on the neighbouring hills. We have among us some enthusiastic botanists who have explored as pioneers the hill-tops and wild places where the native flora still holds its own, and I think that our Society might consider the question of establishing a small weatherproof structure in a suitable spot on the Tararua Range for the use of members. Mr. Aston, who has made
several journeys to Mount Hector and the neighbourhood, speaks highly of a peak known as the Quoin. The height is about 3,900 ft., and it has the special advantage of being well wooded on the one side. It is easily reached from Kaitoke, where you have already reduced the altitude by 800 ft. The track is not a difficult one, excepting a small distance, which is covered with a good deal of fallen timber. In the immediate neighbourhood are lakelets, bogs in which the growth and structure of the alpine peaks can be studied, and many varieties of cushion plants and plant formations peculiar to that elevation and exposure. From the Quoin there is a clear walk to the higher peaks of Mount Hector. I first thought it would be advisable to proceed to the mountaintops by way of the Otaki Gorge, but the distance from a railway-station is greater, the climb through the bush more arduous, and the facilities for a base camp are said not to be so good. The ranges are noted for their alpine treasures, and for some time there has been a rest-house on Mount Holdsworth, which is approached from Masterton. This trip is yearly becoming more and more popular. Mr. Hudson has several papers in the Transactions on the insect fauna of Mount Holdsworth, and I feel sure he will say that there is still much to be done in entomology as well as in botany. It would, of course, be necessary to obtain permission from some one to build a weatherproof shelter on the spot that may be selected. If this were done, I feel sure that we could organize a party to undertake the work, under the auspices of the Society.
For those members who study the physical and geological features of New Zealand I have another suggestion, which is still further afield. We have had recently an excellent report by Dr. Cockayne on the magnificent National Park, which includes the volcanic group of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, and Tongariro. Within this park are countless subjects for investigation, and now that the Main Trunk line is opened I think we might endeavour to obtain permission to build a small hut for the use of members on Ruapehu. There are already tourist shelters at the other end of the park, but it is found now that a good track can be taken from the neighbourhood of Ohakune to the glacier of Ruapehu and the summit. The area of the park is so large that at least two shelter-huts are required. To prevent misapprehensions, I may explain that the kind of hut or shelter that I suggest is not at all an expensive one, and that most of the material for its construction can be found on the spot. Formerly a visit to Ruapehu meant a long and tedious journey; now it is a matter of a few hours' train journey. The natural history of the National Park would be an interesting subject for a group of members to take up.
Putting aside for a while these schemes for future work, let me say a few words to those whose business or circumstances do not permit them to go far afield and study Nature in her varied aspects. Some who are closely tied to town life turn their attention to literature or languages, problems of mathematics, or problems of political and social economics. Where there is a will to work, generally a way is found. One of our members has for some time been doing very useful work in closely investigating what is really the archæology of his immediate neighbourhood—identifying pas or settlements of the Natives of the olden times, hunting for and recording the relics of the former inhabitants found from time to time in preparing foundations and road-cuttings. The result of his labours will be gratifying to himself, and of considerable interest to all the future inhabitants of that part. An example like this is one which might well be followed in other places by numbers of people whose spare time would be made interesting. The great point is to observe carefully and thoroughly, and to promptly make a note of the observations. In course of time the notes become more and more valuable, and what may appear at the time of noting as a bare isolated fact of little interest may prove an important link in a chain of evidence.
We must not forget that there are other workers at the history of New Zealand besides the members of the New Zealand Institute, and I should like to draw the attention of our members to the special effort that is being made by the Council of the Polynesian Society to raise a fund for the publication of much important matter that has been collected by them. Much has been done by the Polynesian Society in the sixteen volumes already published. They have spent over £2,500 in printing, and they can with a good grace ask assistance from their fellow-colonists and from kindred societies in printing their stores of history and mythology. Their cause is worthy of every encouragement.
The archæology of New Zealand is a fascinating subject, in which there is a wide field for all workers, and we need more workers in the field. One of the foremost writers on archæology in general says, “Archæology is the latest-born of the sciences. It has but scarcely struggled into freedom out of the swaddling-clothes of dilettante speculations. It is still attracted by pretty things rather than by real knowledge. It has to find shelter with the fine arts or with history, and not a single home l as yet been provided for its real growth. All other sciences deal with the things around us—with subjects which may or may not affect us. Even medical sciences are concerned with the mechanical
structure of the body rather than with the nature and abilities of the mind. But the science which inquires into all the products and works of our own species, which shows what man has been doing in all ages and under all conditions, which reveals his mind, his thoughts, his tastes, his feelings—such a science touches us more closely than any other. By this science, of which history forms a part, we trace the nature of man, age after age—his capacities, his abilities; we learn where he succeeds, where he fails, and what his possibilities may be.”
From another point of view the subject should be considered—it gives a more truly “liberal education” than any other subject, as at present taught. A complete archæological training would require a full knowledge of history and art, a fair use of languages, and a working familiarity with many sciences. The one-sided growth of modern training which produces a B.A. who knows nothing of natural science, or else a B.Sc. who knows nothing of human nature, is assuredly not the ideal for a reasonable man. Archæology—the knowledge of how man has acquired his present position and powers—is one of the widest studies, best fitted to open the mind, and to produce that type of wide interest and toleration which is the highest result of education.
The study of the archæology of New Zealand is for us and for our children, and, like the history of any other land, it has a fascination. The love of past times, the craving for that which is gone, is one of the most obscure instincts which appears to be brought forward by the wider growth of interests of the mind. It takes many forms: it appeals to the intellect, to the curiosity, to the affections, yet it is really a single instinct, and one which, from its strength, must spring from a primal cause. The sense of loss touches us at every sunset, and in anticipation tinges all the afternoon with the sense of lengthening shadows. Even the things that seem most common, least worthy, when in use, all gain some being as time passes. Each little thing that carelessly we value not at first, grows rich with store of years. Still more do places gain their hold upon us unheeded at the time. A store of memories of days spent amid strong associations that stirred and built the mind are the truest riches in all after-life. What underlies all this fascination of the past ? What is it that thus moves men
In thinking of the days that are no more?
It is the same great attraction, whether it be a personal memory, or the being of our forefathers, or a page strong with past life in some history, or the handling of the drinking-bowls of the oldest kings of the earth as they came from the dust of Egypt. It is but one sense in varied forms. It is the love of life. In primal seas first sprang that love of life—of preservation, of continuity of life. Even long before man it led to the moral growth of self-sacrifice, of affection, of social union. In man it led the stoic on to the brotherhood of all men, and the responsibility of man for man. It has led the modern forward to the brotherhood of all existing life, the responsibility for the animal as well as the man. It now leads us on to clinging to the life of our ancestors, their being and their natures, and beyond that to the fascination of all history, as being the continuity of life, the ever-shifting changes of the one great chain which we see around us at its present stage, and of which we form part. The man who knows and dwells in history adds a new dimension of his existence: he no longer lives in the one plane of present ways and thoughts; he lives in the whole space of life—past, present, and dimly future. He sees the present narrow line of existence, momentarily fluctuating. as one stage, like innumerable other stages that have each been the all-important present to the short-sighted people of their own day. He values the present as the most complete age of history for study, as explaining the past. He values the past as the long continuity that has brought about the result of the present, in which he happens to breathe. He lives in all time; the ages are his; all live alike, to him; the present is not more real than the past, any more than the room in which he sits is more real than the rest of the world. Cleaving to that one stream of life which branch by branch has flowed through so many channels in all the ages, and still runs on into the future, he can give account of the fascination of history.
Papers.—1. “Notes on New Zealand Lepidoptera,” by E. Meyrick, F.R.S.; communicated by G. V. Hudson.
2. “Oceanic Comparatives,” by the Rev. C. E. Fox; communicated by A. Hamilton.
3. “On the Leaf-anatomy of Olearia lacunosa,” by T. L. Lancaster communicated by Professor H. B. Kirk.
4. “On the Anatomy of Haliotis iris,” by F. G. A. Stuckey, M.A.
Second Meeting: 2nd June, 1909.
The President, Mr. A. Hamilton, in the chair.
There was an unusually large attendance of members and visitors.
New Members.—Rev. Joshua Jones, Messrs. W. S. La Trobe, C. A. Cotton, Thomas Sims, and M. Crompton Smith.
Papers.—1. “Notes on the Red Colouring-matter in Wellington Harbour,” by Professor H. B. Kirk.
2. “The New Toy, the ‘Sex Pendulum’: Mr. Stead's Fallacies, and Some Remarkable Facts,” by Mr. R. C. Harding.
Exhibits.—(1) Darwin's tidal abacus, and (2) “The Millionaire” calculating-machine (Mr. C. E. Adams, M.Sc.).
3. Maori implements and ornaments from Miramar Peninsula, Wellington (Mr. H. N. McLeod and Mr. Alex. D. Crawford).