Sir David Ernest Hutchins, 1850–1920.
The late Sir David E. Hutchins, born on the 22nd September, 1850, was educated at the well-known Blundell's School, Tiverton, England, and after leaving went, when twenty years old, to the famous École Nationale des Eaux et Forêts at Nancy, France, where he gained his diploma in forestry. From Nancy he went to India as Deputy Conservator in Mysore, and spent some ten years in the Indian Forest Service. Here he showed his wide views of forestry in two papers which he wrote on Australian trees in the Nilgiris and on the coastal planting of Casuarina. These papers are still standard works on their subjects. From India he was transferred in 1882 to Cape Colony, where, after some years passed in charge of the Knysna forests, he succeeded Count Vasselot de Regné as Chief Conservator of Forests, and remained until 1905. Sir David's work as a forester in South Africa has received the highest praise from such well-known authorities as Sir W. Schlich, the late Professor Fisher, M. Pardé, H. R. McMillan, and others. Under his regime in South Africa not only was scientific management applied to the remaining indigenous forests, but extensive plantations were made of eucalypts and other exotics, which are now yielding an annual revenue of about £20,000.
On his retiring from the South African Forestry Department Sir David was later employed by the British Government to report on the forests of British East Africa, where he succeeded in demarcating reserves, and, among other things, in establishing economic plantations of the Chinese coffin-wood tree (Persea nanmu). He was appointed Chief Conservator of Forests for this territory, and after three years service there he retired from regular Government employment. At various times in his career he was called upon to visit different countries and report on forestry problems. In 1907 he was employed by the Colonial Office to report on the value of the Kenia forests, and in 1909 to inspect the forests of Cyprus.
In addition to his experience in India, South and East Africa, Sir David during several visits had gained an intimate knowledge of the forests of Algeria, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, France, and Germany.
Sir David came out to Australia in 1914 with the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and remained there to study forestry in that land. Whilst in Australia he wrote a valuable book on Australian forestry, A Discussion of Australian Forestry, with Special Reference to the Forests of Western Australia (1914–15), and by his persistent advocacy stirred up such an interest in the matter that in all the various States of the Commonwealth Forestry Departments are now firmly established.
In 1916, on the invitation of the Government, Sir David Hutchins came to New Zealand to report on forestry in this Dominion, and it was mainly on his advice that it was decided to establish forestry as a separate and independent State Department here. He was also the original promoter
of the New Zealand Forestry League, as he recognized that some such body is essential to sustain the interest of the public in a matter which, unfortunately, is liable to be thought to concern our successors more than ourselves.
Whilst in New Zealand Sir David devoted the whole of his time to the study of forestry in this country, and when not in the field inspecting native forests and plantations he was writing on those matters. Before his death the Government had published his Report on the Waipoua Kauri Forest (1918), and Part I of Forestry in New Zealand (1919), and up till the time that he passed away he was engaged in writing Part II of this latter work.
For forestry in the British Empire probably no one has done such service as Sir David Hutchins, and it was for this that he in 1920 received the honour of knighthood, which, in connection with forestry, had previously been conferred only on three official heads of the great Indian Forest Service. His published works were numerous, including, besides those mentioned above, Report on Transvaal Forestry, 1903; Report on Rhodesia Forestry, 1904; Extra-tropical Forestry, 1906; Forests of Mount Keria, 1907; Report on Forests of British East Africa, 1909; Cyprus Forestry 1909; and others.
He died at his residence, Khandallah, on the 11th November, 1920.
E. Phillips Turner