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Volume 44, 1911
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Wellington Philosophical Society.

First Meeting: 10th May, 1911.

An ordinary meeting of the society was held on Wednesday, 10th May, 1911, in the Dominion Museum.

Mr. G. V. Hudson, President, in the chair, and about fifty present.

New Members.—Mr. L. Birks, B.Sc., Assoc.M.Inst.C.E. (transfer from Auckland Institute), Mr. F. J. Carter, M.A., Mr. J. W. Salmond, M.A., Mr. W. J. Anderson, M.A., LL.D., and Mr. W. H. Morton, M.Inst.C.E.

Eugenics Education Society.—Reference was made by Professor Kirk and the President to the meeting called for 11th May, to form an Eugenics Education Society in Wellington.

Presidential Address.—“The Value of Natural-history Studies.” By G. V. Hudson, F.E.S.


The lecturer used the term “natural history” to mean the study of nature in the broadest sense, the object being the extension of human knowledge and happiness apart entirely from commercial and economic interests, and he stated that the growing tendency to judge every sphere of action on its commercial value was distasteful to him. Although children often take a very keen interest in natural objects, the majority of adults are absolutely indifferent to the wonders and beauties around them. This loss of interest he attributed to the influences, both at home and at school, directing the attention of children to other studies which are commonly supposed to enable them to get on in life—though, as Herbert Spencer long ago pointed out, a knowledge of the laws of life is more important than any other knowledge whatever. Although to many persons a naturalist is a dreamer who is more or less incompetent to deal with the problems of life, yet the qualifications required for a successful naturalist, such as keenness of observation, accuracy, continuity of purpose, &c., are precisely those most required in business, and many well-known naturalists have been also successful business men. The study of natural phenomena exercises the powers of observation and also the memory, while many of the subjects in the school curriculum exercise the memory only. Natural history also acts as an antidote to the dullness and ennui that is apt to overcloud middle life when the brightness and originality of childhood have departed, and, further, it leads the student to the consideration of the deepest questions of philosophy—questions bordering on religion, which are perhaps unwisely excluded from the scope of the Institute.

Examples of the ignorance of natural phenomena displayed by persons supposed to be well educated were given, and it was pointed out that mistakes in such matters are usually thought little of, while a man who makes a slight slip in spelling or grammar is branded as an ignoramus.

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If the conclusion of many naturalists that acquired characters are not inherited is correct, it follows that the labour expended on education is for each generation only; and, though this may be a disappointing doctrine to those who have believed that the race could be improved by the inherited effects of education, there is a brighter side to the question, for if the absence of men of commanding personality at the present time is due to the repression of individuality during early years, we may reasonably anticipate that with improved and more enlightened methods of education and a more suitable environment men of commanding personality will again arise. Some signs of the growing dissatisfaction with many of the present educational methods, and of greater attention being paid to natural history, were noted with approval, and in connection therewith the lecturer made the following suggestions:—

  • (1.) That young members might be induced to join the society as associates, and on payment of a small fee be entitled to all the privileges of membership except the annual volume.

  • (2.) That further efforts should be made to secure closer and more united action between the various branches of the Institute.

  • (3.) That special efforts should be made to place the New Zealand Institute more on the same status as the Linnean, Geological, and other learned societies, so that its members might be termed “Fellows of the New Zealand Institute.”

  • (4.) That in addition to its present functions the New Zealand Institute might with advantage promote the objects pursued by the Selborne Society of the United Kingdom, such as the preservation of such wild animals as are harmless, beautiful, and rare, the protection of places and objects of natural beauty or antiquarian interest, &c.

  • (5.) The formation of sections for special subjects, and the closer co-operation of the similar sections of the different branches of the Institute.



“Some Effects of Imported Animals on the Indigenous Vegetation.” By B. C. Aston, F.I.C., F.C.S. (See p. 19.)


“Notes on Nests, Life-history, and Habits of Migas distinctus.” By J. B. Gatenby.

Astronomical Section.—The following report of the Astronomical Section was presented:—


The Astronomical Section of the Wellington Philosophical Society was formally constituted at a special meeting held in the Museum on the 22nd August, 1910.

At present the section consists of thirty-two members, with the following officers: President and Treasurer, Mr. C. P. Powles; Director and Curator of Instruments, Rev. Dr. Kennedy; Council, Professor D. K. Picken, Dr. C. M. Hector, and Messrs. C. E. Adams, G. Hogben, W. S. La Trobe. and A. C. Gifford (Secretary).

On the 29th September the Rev. Dr. Kennedy gave a popular lecture on astronomy, in aid of the Observatory Fund, which resulted in a net profit of £18 6s. In this connection we must thank the City Council for kindly granting us the free use of the Concert Chamber in the Town Hall.

The following is a list of the papers read and lectures delivered at the ordinary meetings of the section:—

October 11.—Presidential Address on Astronomy.—Mr. C. P. Powles.

November 15.—The Pressure of Light.—Professor T. H. Laby.

February 21.—The Mechanism of Astronomical Instruments.—Mr. W. S. La Trobe.

April 11.—Spherical Geometry and Trigonometry.—Professor D. K. Picken.

It is proposed to start an astronomical library in connection with the section. We must thank Dr. C. M. Hector for astronomical catalogues presented for this purpose, and Mr. J. Grigg, F.R.A.S., for a photo of Halley's Comet, 1910, taken by himself at the Observatory, Thames.

A number of members have sent to the Secretary lists of the astronomical works in their private libraries, which may be of great use to members when searching for information on particular points.

The solar eclipse: The Council endeavoured to organize a party to co-operate with the Australian Eolipse Expedition. Unfortunately, owing to the short time available for making arrangements, the long time the expedition would take, and the considerable expense involved, they were unsuccessful in this attempt.

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The section is very deeply indebted to Mr. A. Hamilton, Director of Observatories, for his kindness in placing at our disposal a fine 5 in. Cooke telescope, and for granting the use of a portion of the Time Observatory site at Kelburne for storing, and observing with, the same. The telescope has been moved to Kelburne, and is now available for the use of members, but we hope that it will be much more conveniently so before very long. Nearly five months ago the Council ordered from England an equatorial mounting for it. This should very soon arrive in Wellington, so immediate steps must be taken to provide for the housing of the instrument.

The principal object of the section is to promote and encourage in every possible way the study of astronomy. As one of the chief means to that end the section is striving to secure the speedy establishment in or near Wellington of a fully equipped astronomical observatory. It is felt that progress in this direction will be slow unless public interest in astronomy can be aroused. It is proposed, therefore, as soon as the telescope is mounted and housed, to give those who desire it an opportunity of seeing some of the wonders of the heavens.

Unfortunately, the section as constituted has no direct and permanent source of revenue. Membership of the Philosophical Society carries with it the right-of membership of the section without any additional subscription. The section started with nothing, and although there is now £34 12s. in the savings-bank it is in urgent need of further funds. The equatorial mounting ordered from England is catalogued at £33 without some extras that were found essential, and, of course, the mounting will be useless unless the telescope is adequately housed. Subscriptions for this purpose would be very welcome now. When the section was constituted Dr. C. M. Hector opened the Observatory Fund with a donation of £10. This was followed by donations from Miss Helyer, and Messrs. J. P. Firth, W. H. Carter, jun., J. Thompson, and A. C. Gifford. The total subscriptions up to the present amount to £16 6s., which with the £18 6s., the net proceeds of Dr. Kennedy's lecture, makes up the £34 12s. already referred to.

The question of the best way to house the telescope was discussed at the last meeting of the section, and is at present a matter for the serious consideration of the Council.

Several interesting papers are promised for the forthcoming meetings, so, with the increased interest that will doubtless be aroused by the facilities for observation that will soon be provided, the section can look forward with confidence to a successful season's work.

A. C. Gifford,

Hon. Secretary.

Special Meeting: 18th May, 1911.

A special meeting of the society was held on Thursday, 18th May, 1911, at Victoria College.

Mr. G. V. Hudson, President, in the chair, and about seventy present.

Lecture.—Professor T. H. Laby delivered an interesting lecture on the principles of gyroscopic motion, and showed a number of experiments with gyroscopes and a model of the Brennan mono-rail car, which had been built in the physics laboratory.

All the experiments were most successful, and when the requisite speed had been attained by the gyroscopes of the car it was run over a wire stretched across the room, and maintained its equilibrium in spite of tiltings and repeated shakings of the wire.

Mr. G. Hogben, Inspector-General of Schools, moved a vote of thanks to the lecturer, and remarked on the interesting manner in which Professor Laby had explained one of the newest developments of mechanics.

Mr. A. L. Beattie, Chief Mechanical Engineer to the Railway Department, seconded the motion, and said that as a railway engineer of forty-five years standing he had been particularly interested in the professor's exposition.

The motion was carried with great heartiness.

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Second Meeting: 7th June, 1911.

The second ordinary meeting of the society was held on Wednesday, 7th June, 1911, in the Dominion Museum, Wellington.

Mr. G. V. Hudson, President, in the chair, and about eighty present.

New Members.—Mr. J. Henderson, M.A., D.Sc., Mr. W. E. Spencer, M.A., M.Sc., Mr. G. Stuart Thomson, and Mr. J. Allan Thomson, B.Sc.

The President, referring to Kapiti Island, announced that the society would make strong representations to the Government to reserve the whole island for Native fauna and flora.



“Further Note on Migas distinctus.” By J. B. Gatenby.


“Othello.” By H. L. James, B.A.

Mr. James delivered an interesting address on Othello, and during the evening Mrs. B. M. Wilson sang Desdemona's song to the original music.


“Maori Curiosities.” By Dr. A. K. Newman.

Dr. Newman described and exhibited Maori curiosities collected recently.


“The Nature of Gamma Rays.” By Professor T. H. Laby and P. W. Burbidge, B.Sc. (See p. 30.)

Third Meeting: 12th July, 1911.

The third ordinary meeting of the society was held on Wednesday, 12th July, 1911, in the Dominion Museum, Wellington.

Mr. G. V. Hudson, President, in the chair, and about forty present.

New Member.—Professor Garrow.



Mr. A. Hamilton, Director of the Museum, exhibited some recent acquisitions to the Museum, including two collections of Lepidoptera, one from Brisbane in exchange for New Zealand specimens, and the other from Aru Island on the south-west coast of New Guinea.


On behalf of Professor Laby, who was unable to attend, Mr. P. W. Burbidge, B.Sc., exhibited and explained the action of a vibration galvanometer.

Address.—Mr. R. W. Holmes, Engineer-in-Chief, Public Works Department, delivered an interesting address on the “Federal Capital Territory,” and illustrated his remarks by means of numerous plans—contour, meteorological, geological, &c.—panoramic views, and a large relief model of the locality in which Australia's capital city is to be built.

Paper.—Professor T. H. Easterfield read a paper on the “Higher Fatty Acids,” and described experiments made by himself and Miss C. M. Taylor; and exhibited and described the apparatus used.