James Hector. 1834-1907
The time that has elapsed between the death of the principal founder of the New Zealand Institute, and the publication in the Transactions of the Institute of this appreciation of his work makes it clear that, in the perspective of the years, instead of sinking he rises in his position among great scientific workers.
James Hector was born in Edinburgh on the 16th March, 1834. His father was a conveyancer of note and Writer to the Signet, a friend of Sir Walter Scott, for whom he was wont to transcribe and translate old manuscripts. His mother was a niece of Dr. Barclay, founder of the Royal College of Surgeons' Museum, Edinburgh, and the teacher of Owen, Knox, Ballingall, Campbell, and a host of other surgeons and anatomists of renown.
Hector received his early training at the Edinburgh Academy and High School. At fourteen he entered his father's office, which he left on being articled to an actuary, with whom he stayed three years, at the same time attending classes at the University and School of Arts. Quite early he manifested a strong inclination towards chemistry and natural science. In November, 1852, he gave up all office-work and matriculated at Edinburgh University as a medical student, the medical course then offering the only avenue to scientific study. So it was with Owen, Huxley, and many another. Medical student though he was, and earnest as a student of medicine, he felt most strongly the spell of geology, and under its influence he developed the instincts of exploration and adventure that were to play so important a part in his later work. Every summer holiday he spent in long walking excursions in the Highlands of Scotland, in England, or in Ireland. The resourcefulness that he developed, the habit of quick and accurate observation, the general value of his student work, attracted the attention of his teachers. While attending Balfour's classes in botany he was selected by his professor to give to the Botanical Society an account of the geological and physical features of the ground gone over in excursions. There being no Chair of Geology in the university, he attended extra-academic lectures on geology, mineralogy, and palaeontology delivered by Macadam, Rose, and Page. He took the degree of M.D. in 1856. It is interesting to note that he handed in a graduation thesis on “The Antiquity of Man,” the title chosen by Lyell in 1863 for one of his famous books.
For a short time after taking his degree Hector acted as assistant to Sir J. Y. Simpson, and that was the only definite medical appointment that he ever held, hearing always the insistent call of science, especially of geology.
In March, 1857, Hector was selected by Sir Roderick Murchison, Director-General of the Geological Survey of Great Britain, to be surgeon and geologist in the Government expedition to the western part of British North America, and in this work he spent four arduous and adventurous years. The leader of the expedition was Captain John Palliser, and it is of interest to take his account of the main objects to be achieved:—
“Her Majesty's Government, being anxious to obtain correct information with respect to the facilities or difficulties of communication between the Canadas and the country west of Lake Superior and north of the 49th parallel, determined, early in the year 1857, to send out an expedition to examine the present route of travel, with a view to ascertain whether it could be either shortened or rendered less formidable by any reasonable outlay, and whether if such an expenditure of capital were devoted to that object there was any prospect of a result favourable to emigration or agriculture commensurable with the sacrifice.
“The Government was also desirous of obtaining information relative to a large belt of country until now almost unknown—namely, that comprised between longitude 97° W. and the Rocky Mountains, and ranging from the 49th parallel of latitude to the North Saskatchewan.
“In addition to both these motives, the Government wished to ascertain whether any practicable pass or passes available for horses existed across the Rocky Mountains within the British territory, and south of that known to exist between Mount Brown and Mount Hooker in latitude 54° 10′.” (This was the only pass then known, and horses could not cross it.)
The bulk of the scientific work fell on Hector. Not only did he share to the full the arduous work of the expedition as a whole, but when the rest of the party went into winter quarters Hector was accustomed to take a man or two, and, with Indian guides, to make long excursions on snow-shoes, and with dog-sleighs, sleeping in the snow and learning to know all parts of the territory, under the severe, almost arctic, conditions of winter, the temperature being often 50° below zero. He walked over one thousand miles in this fashion, living on pemmican or on any chance game, and often being on the shortest of rations.
He discovered and explored five different passes over the British Rocky Mountains. One of these is the famous Kicking Horse Pass, through which the trans-continental railway now runs. In his first report Palliser thus refers to the discovery: “Dr. Hector followed the Bow River right up to the main watershed of the continent, then followed it until he reached a transverse watershed which divides the waters of the Columbia and those of the Northern Saskatchewan on the one hand from those of the Kootanie and South Branch of the Saskatchewan on the other. There he found the facilities for crossing the mountains so great as to leave little doubt in his mind as to the practicability of constructing even a railroad connecting the plains of the Saskatchewan with the opposite side of the main chain of the Rocky Mountains.” The names Kicking Horse River and Kicking Horse Pass were given by members of Hector's party on account of his having been kicked in the chest by his horse, an accident that nearly cost him his life. He lived to see the railway that crosses the Divide by the pass that his courage and endurance had discovered.
These two brief quotations from the report must suffice to show the magnitude of Hector's share of the work of the expedition. During the winter of 1857–58 he mapped the whole of the North Saskatchewan, from Carlton to Rocky Mountain House, a distance of nearly 9° of longitude. In his charge was the making of the maps, geographical as well as geological.
Before returning to England Hector made a geological examination of Vancouver Island, and of the goldfields of British Columbia and California, as well as of some of the mines of northern Mexico.
On his return to England he received the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society. He received also, again at the instance of Sir Roderick Murchison, two offers of appointment: the first as Geologist at Kashmir, holding also the position of Political Agent, with large emoluments; the second as Geologist to the Provincial Government of Otago, with no extravagant emoluments. There is no need to say which Hector chose.
Arrived in New Zealand, he at once set about making a thorough exploration, especially from the point of view of geology, of the mountainous districts and the sounds of the province, work that was accomplished with great difficulty and hardship. In 1864 he was commissioned to make a tour of the colony in order to determine how its resources could best be demonstrated at the Exhibition, the first of its kind in New Zealand, to be held in Dunedin in the following year.
In 1865 he was appointed Director of the Geological Survey Department of the colony. With the small staff of assistants that could be afforded, he rapidly pushed on a geological survey of the country. Recognized as the adviser of the Government on practically all scientific matters, he had, unfortunately, to devote much time to work that hindered that which he had most at heart. Whilst the work of administration and advice was most efficiently done, he was still able to find time for an immense amount of most useful original scientific research. We may be pardoned if we give a high place to the founding of the New Zealand Institute, in 1868, among the achievements of this period of his life. From the foundation of the Institute he was for thirty-five years its Manager, and the Editor of its Transactions, doing this and much more as a labour of love, and so establishing a high tradition in its service. The Transactions, the reports of his Department, parliamentary papers, bulletins—all show the results of his untiring industry. It may safely be said that, among all the able workers that New Zealand has had, none has a greater volume of achievement, and few have reached as high a standard.
When the first Senate of the University of New Zealand met, in 1871, Sir James Hector was one of its members; in 1885 he was elected Chancellor, holding that office until his retirement in 1903. In this office he was able to render much service to the cause of higher education in New Zealand.
An idea of the high esteem in which his scientific work was held may be had from the fact that the following honours, among others, were conferred upon him:—
In 1857 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Physical Society. In 1860 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and of the Geological Society, London. In 1866 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London. In 1874 he received from the German Emperor, by permission of the New Zealand Government, the Order of the Golden Cross.
In 1875 he received the Order of C.M.G., and in 1886 the honour of K.C.M.G. was conferred upon him. He was elected to the honorary membership of practically all the great learned societies of Europe, America, and Australia.
On retiring from office in 1904 he paid a visit to the scene of his early labours in the Rocky Mountains, accompanied by his son Douglas. He was everywhere received with enthusiasm by the people; but the cup of joy was suddenly dashed from his lips by the death of his son and companion at Revelstoke, on the Columbia River. Returning alone, he lived at his home, near Wellington, until his death, in 1907.
In recognition of his great work for Canada, the Canadian Government has placed on the highest point of the Great Divide a monument to his memory. A monument not less enduring exists in New Zealand in the esteem in which he is held in the hearts of men. Few great men have had a more charming personality, more breadth of interest, or a greater readiness to help and encourage beginners in scientific research.
These notes of Hector's life have been taken mainly from material supplied by Lady Hector and Dr. C. Monro Hector. The present writer greatly regrets that it has been necessary to keep within narrow space-limits, realizing that a memorial volume would be more fitting than a memorial notice.
H. B. Kirk.
Stephenson Percy Smith, 1840–1922.
The late Stephenson Percy Smith was born at Beecles, Suffolk, in June, 1840. He was the eldest son of John Stephenson Smith, member of an old East Anglian family, who brought his family out to New Zealand in the ship “Pekin,” which arrived at New Plymouth on the 7th February, 1850. Here the family settled and took part in the opening-up of what was for many years an almost isolated district. Mr. Smith joined the Survey Department at New Plymouth in 1855, and later became an assistant surveyor. He followed up his profession until his retirement from the service in 1900.
In 1857–58 Mr. Smith, together with several young companions, undertook an extended walking-tour across the Island from Taranaki to the Bay of Plenty by way of Mokau, Taupo, and Rotorua, returning by the Whanganui route. That trip was marked by the careful noting of much interesting data concerning the Maori and the natural productions of the districts traversed, a habit that Mr. Smith cultivated throughout his long life.
During the years 1859–63 Mr. Smith was connected with the Native Land Purchase Department in the Auckland District. The year 1865 found him back at Taranaki, where he pursued his profession for years under difficult and often extremely dangerous conditions. He spent the year 1868 in the triangulation and subdivision of the Chatham Islands. In the following year he returned to Taranaki, and for about six years he was engaged in the major triangulation of the North Island. In 1877 he was appointed Chief Surveyor of the Auckland District, and in 1882 he became Assistant Surveyor - General. In 1889 he was appointed to the highly responsible position of Surveyor-General, which he held until his retirement in 1900 after forty-five years of service. That long period of service was marked by unusual ability and devotion to duty, and by the confidence of succeeding Governments.
The unusual qualities possessed by Mr. Smith led to his being entrusted with various missions and tasks outside his professional activities. Thus we have his interesting work on the eruption of Tarawera of 1886, which shows that, had he devoted himself to geology, that science would have gained an able interpreter. In 1887 he was sent to the Kermadec Islands in order to take possession of that group, and in the latter “nineties” was appointed Chairman of the Urewera Commission. In 1902 he was requested by the Governor of New Zealand to proceed to Niue in order to institute a system of government for that island.
Mr. Smith will probably be best remembered by his remarkable work in Polynesian ethnology. He had an intimate knowledge of old-time Maori life, the language, history, and customs of our native folk, as also a remarkable acquaintance with those of the various far-scattered divisions of the Polynesian race in northern isles. He collected a great mass of data concerning these subjects, and in 1892 he was the chief agent in the formation of the Polynesian Society. The recording of the great volume of ethnological matter contained in the thirty-one volumes of the journal of that society may be placed to the credit of Mr. Smith, who acted as editor throughout that lengthy period.
Apart from his remarkable achievement in the conduct of the above journal, Mr. Smith published much valuable matter in book form. Of these the most notable is Hawaiki—The Original Home of the Maori, published in 1898 (fourth edition 1921); while others were as follows: The Kermadec Islands (1887); The Peopling of the North (1898); Niue Island and its People (1903); Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century (1904; second edition 1910); History and Traditions of the Maoris of the West Coast (1910); The Lore of the Whare Wananga (Part 1, 1913; Part 2, 1915).
In recognition of his valuable work in Polynesian ethnology he was, in 1919, awarded the Hector Medal by the New Zealand Institute, of which Institute he was one of the first twenty Fellows elected in 1920. He was corresponding member of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain, of the Societa d'Anthropologia d'Italia, of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia, and of the Hawaiian Historical Society.
In the years that lie before, the result of Mr. Smith's talents and indefatigable industry will assuredly be highly appreciated by students of Maori enthnology and the early history of New Zealand and Polynesia. He was a born collector (in itself a rare quality) and a facile writer—a rare combination.
Above all, throughout the long life of Stephenson Percy Smith shone forth the powers and wide influence of sterling character. He died at his residence, “Mataimoana,” New Plymouth, on the 19th April, 1922.
David Sharp, 1840–1922.
Dr. David Sharp, one of the most distinguished entomologists of the present time, died at his residence, Lawnside, Brockenhurst, England, on Sunday, the 27th August, 1922. He was born at Towcester, Northants, on the 15th October, 1840. He studied medicine, first at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London, and subsequently at Edinburgh, where, in 1866, he graduated as M.B. and C.M. In 1867 he was appointed to the Crichton Institution at Dumfries, but after 1883 he was enabled to discontinue active medical practice and devote himself entirely to scientific work. In 1890 he accepted the charge of the insect collections of the University Museum of Zoology at Cambridge. This curatorship he retained until 1909, when he built a house at Brockenhurst, overlooking the New Forest, whither he retired until the time of his death.
As is so frequently the case, his first attention was given to the Lepidoptera, but his energies were soon transferred to the Coleoptera, with which order his name will be inseparably associated in the future.
The magnitude of Dr. Sharp's entomological work may be realized when it is known that in the Royal Society's Catalogue of Scientific Papers and the Zoological Record there are entered no less than 257 papers written by him. In 1891 he became responsible editor of the Zoological Record.
To him are due two excellent catalogues of the English Coleoptera, issued in 1871 and 1893, the latter in conjunction with the Rev. Canon Fowler. In the Scottish Naturalist he published (1871–79) an exhaustive annotated list of Coleoptera north of the border. His most important contribution to the Transactions of the Entomological Society of London was an essay, issued in 1912 (in conjunction with Mr. F. Muir), “On the Comparative Anatomy of the Male Genital Tube in Coleoptera.” His best book is the treatise on “Insects,” forming the greater part of two volumes of the Cambridge Natural History (1895–99). Of this it can safely be said that no work of equal value on general entomology has been produced in Britain since Westwood's Introduction, which appeared more than half a century before.
Dr. Sharp's extensive collection of Coleoptera from all parts of the world was, a few years before his death, acquired by the nation: the whole of his library was purchased by the Cawthron Institute, Nelson.
He joined the Entomological Society of London in 1862, and at the time of his death he was the senior surviving Fellow. He was Vice-President on four separate occasions, and President in 1887 and 1888. In 1890 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was honorary or corresponding member of most of the chief entomological societies throughout the world, and he specially valued his connection with the New Zealand Institute. Of this he was the oldest surviving honorary member, having been appointed in 1877, the date of the next oldest being as recent as 1890.
Dr. Sharp's influence on New Zealand entomology has been very great. From early in the “seventies” of last century until about the year 1888 he was in constant correspondence with that indefatigable collector the late Mr. R. Helms, of Greymouth, and as a result of the joint labours of these two naturalists some of our most conspicuous and remarkable beetles were first made known to science. Later on, the writer of this notice also had the privilege of corresponding with Dr. Sharp, and it was entirely due to his influence and encouragement that a paper appeared in the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute for 1893 stressing the urgent necessity for the formation of extensive collections of New Zealand animals and plants (including, of course, insects) before the further advance of settlement had resulted in the extermination of many interesting species.
To Dr. Sharp's very early association with the great English philosopher Herbert Spencer may probably be ascribed his cautious and extremely logical mode of thought. Whilst keeping closely in touch, throughout his long life, with modern evolutionary doctrines, he never allowed himself to be unduly led away by enthusiasm. He always kept his great store of facts steadily in view when attempting to test the truth of theories supposed to explain the multifarious phenomena of insect-life.
G. V. Hudson.
Charles Alfred Ewen, 1852–1921.
The late Mr. C. A. Ewen was born at Birmingham, England, in 1852—a son of Walter Ewen, who came to New Zealand in 1854, and settled in Auckland. He was educated in the Auckland High School, where he won the medal for special ability.
After a visit to England in 1874 he returned to New Zealand, and in 1876 joined the staff of the Bank of New Zealand, becoming in due course manager of several branches—Waipawa, New Plymouth, &c. About 1895 he joined the New Zealand Insurance Company as manager of their Wellington branch, and in 1907 was offered and accepted the general managership of the Commercial Union Assurance Company, which position he held up to the date of his death.
He was keenly interested in sport, having himself in his early days been a representative footballer of the Auckland Province; he was a pronounced Imperialist, was a Fellow of the Royal Colonial Institute, a Financial Member of the Executive of the Dominion War Relief Association, for several years a Vice-President of the Wellington Club, and President of the New Zealand Council of Underwriters. He was also a trustee of the Wellington Diocese, a member of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, and Government representative on the Board of Science and Art. He was appointed Government representative on the New Zealand Institute in 1910, was made Honorary Treasurer in 1912, and held both positions at the date of his death.
He was keenly interested in science and art, and his collection of books dealing particularly with New Zealand and Australia, made during his friendship with the late A. H. Turnbull, was very extensive, as, too, was his collection of Maori weapons and implements.
He lived the quiet private life of a busy business man and assiduous collector, and, whilst he had only one paper in the Transactions of the Institute, he materially assisted the Institute in his position of Honorary Treasurer.
He married, in 1883, Jane Douglas, daughter of the late Frederick Sutton, of Hawke's Bay, M.P. for that district for a number of years, and died at his home on 9th April, 1921, leaving a widow and two daughters.
Johannes C. Andersen.
By the death of Thomas Frederic Cheeseman on the 15th October, 1923, the New Zealand Institute has lost a highly distinguished Fellow whose name must be added to that select band—Colenso, Kirk, Haast, Hector, and Hutton—who, with himself, working in this country, have laid a lasting foundation on which is being erected the splendid edifice of New Zealand natural history.
Cheeseman, though nominally an Englishman through being born at Hull, in Yorkshire, in 1846, was in reality a New-Zealander, since he came to the colony with his parents when only eight years of age, and was educated first at the Parnell Grammar School and later at St. John's College, Auckland. His father, the Rev. Thomas Cheeseman, was at one time a member of the old Auckland Provincial Council, and took a prominent part in the public life of the day.
It is not easy to say what led Cheeseman to commence a serious study of our flora, but probably the stimulus to a natural bent was Hooker's Handbook, together with the founding of the New Zealand Institute. At any rate, by 1872—fifty-one years ago—he had acquired, unaided in any way, so sound a knowledge of the plants of his neighbourhood that he was able to publish an accurate and comprehensive account of the plant-life of the Waitakarei Hills. This paper is far from being obsolete, for it is the sole record of a vegetation which is now profoundly modified.
In 1874 Cheeseman was appointed Secretary of the Auckland Institute and Curator of the Museum, then in its early infancy. How far-reaching for the scientific advancement of New Zealand, and indeed for the general benefit of the country, this apparently unimportant appointment was, no one could possibly foresee; yet it has led to the gathering together of the invaluable collections of the Auckland Museum, and to botanical studies, not academic only, but of high significance for agriculture, horticulture, and forestry. These studies were carried on diligently up to his death, hardly a year having passed without some communication appearing from his pen. Primarily a botanist, he belonged nevertheless to that class of naturalists, common enough before these days of specialization, who took an interest in all branches of natural history. Thus, of his 101 papers and books, twenty-two deal with zoological or ethnological subjects; indeed, it was this wide knowledge which fitted him so eminently for his museum activities.
But it was as a botanist that Cheeseman stood pre-eminent, and it is his work in floristic botany which has made his name widely known in all lands. At the time his researches commenced, the greater part of New Zealand was almost unknown botanically, so that a keen search for plants in all directions was demanded; fresh material was also essential for the accurate study of many species admitted by Hooker. During his vacations, therefore, Cheeseman assiduously sought to remedy this state of affairs, and many were his excursions. The most important communications from his pen on this head concern the Nelson Provincial District, the Kermadec and Three Kings Islands, and the area from Mangonui to the far north; but these by no means reflect all his activities in the field, nor give any
idea of the number of species he discovered or specially investigated. All this is better reflected in his Manual, wherein are indicated the many localities he visited and the species he described. In some of his excursions he was accompanied by his friend the late Mr. J. Adams, of the Thames High School, and the names Senecio Adamsii and Elytranthe Adamsii, bestowed by Cheeseman, are a fitting memento of their comradeship.
Cheeseman's explorations were not confined to the New Zealand Botanical Region; he also visited Polynesia, and published in the Transactions of the Linnean Society a comprehensive account of the flora of Rarotonga, the chief island of the Cook Group. His general botanical knowledge was wide, especially of systematic botany; he also had the greatest sympathy for other branches of the science, and perceived plainly the present-day trend—for had he not closely watched the botanical development of fifty years' unparalleled activity? Thus, in his own domain, although during the greater part of his career he based his work on the Linnean conception of species, in recent years his opinion changed in no small degree in this regard, and he accepted, or defined, groups of individuals as species which he would previously have merged. In other words, he possessed the true scientific spirit, in that he was open to conviction, and would deliberately follow a new path, even if so doing clashed with his former opinions.
Cheeseman's botanical publications fall into several classes; many, along with the work of others, paved the way for a complete flora of New Zealand. Then there was the actual flora he produced in 1906, entitled The Manual of the New Zealand Flora, to which must be added his and Hemsley's Illustrations of the New Zealand Flora (1914). Then come his writings of a philosophical character which deal with the origin of the New Zealand subantarctic flora, and an early paper treating of the naturalized plants of the Auckland Provincial District. Finally, amongst his earlier writings also are several papers dealing with the pollination of certain species—a matter then receiving great attention through the influence of Darwin.
There is not space available for a full account of the scope of the above writings; all, even the shortest, were distinguished by those characteristics which their gifted author possessed to an extreme degree—sound judgment, clarity of expression, and accuracy. Above all, he had the supreme gift of infinite patience: all views expressed were the result of much cautious deliberation; the hurried methods of the present day were not for him. And in this spirit he approached his classic work, The Manual of the New Zealand Flora, with the result that it can be used with all confidence in the certain knowledge that it contains the well-considered conclusions of a master mind. As for this flora, it stands out the equal of any of that brilliant series of floras dealing with various parts of the British Empire which were conceived, and in part executed, by Bentham and Hooker.
Hand in hand with his botanical research went on the development of the Auckland Museum, which, during the fifty years of his direction, developed into an institution of high rank, especially distinguished—such was his many-sided knowledge—by what is probably the most extensive collection extant illustrating Maori ethnology. A peculiarly important addition will be Cheeseman's almost complete herbarium of the flowering-plants and vascular cryptogams of the Dominion, which some short time ago he presented to the Auckland Institute—a splendid gift, invaluable for all students of the flora.
To a scientific worker in a far-away corner of the earth honours come slowly. Nevertheless it would have been astonishing had Cheeseman's many claims for recognition been overlooked. For many years New Zealand itself had nothing to offer. Even the University does not honour itself, as do other universities, by conferring degrees upon distinguished men. But Cheeseman was early elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, and, a little later, of the Zoological Society also. But honours far more distinguished came to him—first of all, a Corresponding Membership of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh, and this year one of the highest science can offer, the Gold Linnean Medal of the Linnean Society, a distinction open to zoologists and botanists throughout the world; further, had he lived, he would almost certainly have been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Then the New Zealand Institute made him its President in 1911, which is the highest honour a scientific man can attain in the Dominion, and in 1918 he was awarded the Hector Memorial Medal and Prize for his botanical researches, and the succeeding year he was made an original Fellow of the New Zealand Institute.
After all, the gaining of honours is far from being the crown of the gifted man of science: rather is it the admiration of those who best know his work, and, above all, the knowledge that such work is influencing his fellow-workers, old and young. It is indeed difficult to estimate how great has been the influence of Cheeseman upon botanical research in New Zealand. His works must perforce be in the hands of all pursuing studies concerned either with the flora or the vegetation, and must be consulted daily. Nor will this influence lessen with his lamented death; it will vastly increase. Happily, the great botanist lived to round off his life's work—the revised edition of his flora. How greatly do we botanists of this country, if I may speak for my friends and colleagues, rejoice that he had the satisfaction of finishing his task! How greatly do we deplore that he did not live to see his labours materialized, and to receive our acclamation!