Percy Gates Morgan, 1867–1927.
The late Percy Gates Morgan, Director of the Geological Survey of New Zealand since 1911 was born in Tasmania in 1867, but came to New Zealand with his parents at an early age. He was educated at the Taieri Ferry State School and Otago Boys High School. He entered Otago University in 1885 as the holder of a Junior University Scholarship, obtained his B.A. in 1890 and his M.A. with honours in English in 1891. He also studied under the late Professor G. H. F. Ulrich at the Dunedin School of Mines, becoming an associate of that school in mining and receiving also a certificate in Mine and Land Surveying.
Between 1890–95 Mr. Morgan thoroughly learned the art of coal-mining as practised at Green Island. In 1895 he went to the Hauraki Goldfield, for a time worked in the deadly dry-crushing batteries then used in the southern part of that district, and in 1896 passed his examination as Battery Superintendent. In September 1896, he was appointed assistant lecturer at the Thames School of Mines, a position he resigned to become director of the newly established School of Mines at Waihi. He began his duties there on 1st July, 1897, and remained for nearly eight years.
In May, 1905, Mr. Morgan joined the staff of the New Zealand Geological Survey, then being re-organized by Dr. J. M. Bell, whom he followed as director in 1911. On 21st July, 1916, in addition to his other duties he took over the Under-Secretaryship of the Mines Department, having been already Acting Under-Secretary for three months. His inclination, however, did not lie in administrative work, and at his own request he was relieved of this position at the end of October 1917.
Mr. Morgan was an original member of the short-lived New Zealand Institute of Mining Engineers. For many years he was a member of the Australasian Institute of Mining Engineers, from 1901 to 1905 being on the council and acting as New Zealand correspondent: at the time of his death he was New Zealand's representative on the council. He was elected a fellow of the Geological Society of London in 1922. Mr. Morgan became a member of the Wellington Philosophical Society in 1909, was elected president in 1924 and acted for the society on the Board of Governors of the New Zealand Institute. He was also a member of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, of the Seismological Society of America, and of the Society of Economic Geologists.
On becoming Director of the Geological Survey, Mr. Morgan was appointed to the Board of Examiners under the Coal Mines
and Mining Acts, and was elected chairman of that body. He was a member of the Board of Science and Art, and from time to time acted as an official representative on numerous commissions and boards.
Mr. Morgan, who in 1900 married a daughter of the late Mr. Thomas Gilmour of Waihi, is survived by a widow and four daughters.
Most of Mr. Morgan's field work was on the West Coast of the South Island, to which district he was detailed shortly after his appointment to the staff of the Geological Survey in May 1905. He assisted in the examination of the Hokitika Quadrangle, and later was in charge of the survey of the Mikonui, Greymouth, and Buller-Mokihinui subdivisions. He did a large part of the field-work himself, though assisted for longer or shorter periods by A. R. Andrew, J. M. Finlayson, R. A. Farquharson and J. A. Bartrum, men not unknown in the geological world, who did their first field-work under Mr. Morgan. Much of these areas consists of rough mountainous country densely wooded to the snow-line and with few roads. Its exploration was not accomplished without difficulty and hardship.
The chief economic result of these explorations was the mapping of the Greymouth and Westport districts, which together contain nearly all the high grade coals of New Zealand. The structure of the coalfields was worked out in detail, the succession of beds established, and the amount of coal estimated. Mr. Morgan showed that two sets of coal-measures existed on the West Coast, he added to Hector's and McKay's work on the alluvial gold deposits, and described the petroleum seepages at Kotuku. Of great theoretical interest was the fact that he proved that the structure of the southern Alps was not as had been suggested by Hochstetter, and till then accepted by all New Zealand geologists. In addition he showed that the Hawks Crag Breccia was not of glacial origin, and that the Tertiary sequence was broken by erosion intervals.
During the last two seasons in the Buller-Mokihinui Subdivision Mr. Morgan's duties as Director of the Geological Survey considerably hampered his field-work. He did not again attempt to carry out an extended areal survey personally, and, except for brief periods and chiefly in the Taranaki district, did no systematic exploration. Such time as he could spare from administrative and office work was spent in preliminary visits to districts later to be surveyed, in examining quarries, mines, and desposits of economic value, and generally in acting as adviser to the Government in all geological matters. For this his wide experience and sound knowledge of geology in all its branches peculiarly fitted him.
Only a few of the results of this later work can here be mentioned. Mr. Morgan's comprehensive knowledge of the minerals and rocks of economic value occurring in New Zealand is shown by his numerous papers and reports on these materials,
and especially by his as yet unpublished Minerals and Mineral Substances of New Zealand. He made a special study of the coalfields and oilfields of the Dominion, and wrote much about them. His early association with Waihi caused the vast amount of work and intensive study entailed in the preparation of the bulletin on the Waihi district to be a labour of love.
Apart from the economic side his extensive knowledge of New Zealand geology is shown in his report on the limestones of New Zealand and in the notes accompanying his geological map of New Zealand. He was particularly interested in the Tertiary rocks, which his extended experience led him to believe were broken by numerous unconformities, some merely local. Mr. Morgan's early work in North Westland made him interested in glaciation and structural geology, subjects to which, in his later years, he devoted considerable study.
Though not a specialist, with the limitations so often seen in a specialist, all his work was characterized by thoroughness. His care and accuracy in the field were exceptional, and were applied with unwearying patience; before writing, the literature on any subject was methodically summarized; and his reports when written were revised again and again. His published work has the unquestioning confidence of those who know how conscientiously it was prepared. He valued geological intuition highly, but strove to make his own and his officers' reports independent of it by basing results and deductions only on the vast array of facts collected. He strongly held that geology in New Zealand and the future mineral industries dependent thereon must be based on the sure foundation of accurate knowledge. To this end he carried out much spade work that would yield no immediate return; the extensive library he built up, the palaeonto-logical research begun under his directorship, and his stout resistance to his officers being diverted from the areal survey he regarded as of prime importance, resulted from this belief and from his high ideals of scientific work.
On account of his retiring disposition, and reluctance towards verbal expression, Mr. Morgan did not appeal at once as do many with far less than his solidity to back their confidence; but if any paper or work were submitted to him for criticism, he spared no trouble in examining it, and in making notes on what weaknesses there might be and how these might best be remedied; at the same time he was ungrudging in his appreciation of good sound work. The death of Mr. Morgan, on 26th November, 1927, leaves a blank it will be hard to fill; it is a distinct loss not only to the work of geology in New Zealand, but to the workers in geology also.