Edward Kidson (1882-1939).
Edward Kidson was born at Bilston, Staffordshire, on 12th March, 1882. The son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Kidson, he belonged to a family well known in Nelson and Christchurch. Educated at Nelson College, he obtained an Entrance Scholarship and took his university course at Canterbury College. In 1906, he obtained a Senior Scholarship, and was awarded the degree of M.Sc. with first class honours in Physics. The following year he completed the honours course in Mathematics and obtained his M.A. degree.
In 1905 he was appointed Assistant at the Magnetic Observatory in Christchurch, and in 1908 he joined the staff of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Till 1914 he worked on magnetic surveys in South America, Newfoundland, at sea, and in Australia. During his two year at sea on the research ship Carnegie he made the observations for the navigation of the vessel. In 1914 he was engaged on a magnetic survey in the interior of Australia and some time elapsed before the party heard that war had been declared. From 1915 till 1919 he served with the Meteorological Section of the Royal Engineers. With the rank of Captain, he commanded a section which developed the forecasting service and the application of meteorology to gunnery for the Salonica Expeditionary Force. For his successful work he was mentioned in despatches and awarded the O.B.E. (Military Division).
In 1919, he was appointed Observer-in-Charge of the Watheroo Magnetic Observatory in Western Australia, and in 1921 he became Supervising Meteorologist and Assistant Director of the Commonwealth Meteorological Service. He was a member of the Australian National Research Council. In 1924 he was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, and in the same year was awarded the degree of D.Sc. (N.Z. University) for a thesis embodying the results of a research on cloud heights carried out in Melbourne. In 1927, he was appointed Director of the Meteorological Service in New Zealand.
In 1931, Dr. Kidson was elected a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute, now the Royal Society of New Zealand. He was one of the comparatively small band of those who regularly attended meetings of the Wellington Philosophical Society, and was one of the Society's representatives on the Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand from 1932 to 1936.
When Dr Kidson assumed control of the New Zealand Meteorological Office, he set himself the task of building up a scientific service in this country. He foresaw the coming development of aviation and the important part which New Zealand would play in trans-ocean air services, and he strived to anticipate the ever-increasing demands for meteorological information which have arisen. When he took charge he had a staff of four. At the time of his death there were forty. In order to lay the foundations of a sound aviation meteorological organisation in this area, he convened, in 1937, a very successful conference for the Southwest Pacific. At this conference
he was elected President. Though he did not live to see the inauguration of regular trans-Tasman and trans-Pacific flights, Dr. Kidson was instrumental, from the meteorological side, in making such services possible.
At international conferences in Europe and elsewhere, and at other scientific conferences, especially those in Australia and New Zealand, papers which he presented were always regarded as most valuable contributions to the advancement of the science of Meteorology. He published numerous original papers with particular reference to forecasting and the use of observations of the upper atmosphere, and specialised in the meteorology of the Antarctic regions, on which he was a world authority.
Dr. Kidson's energy and application to his subject were remarkable. Almost every evening he would spend two or three hours either reading current meteorological journals—he could read French, German, and Spanish—or in pursuing some research, generally in connection with Antarctic Meteorology.
He was specially selected to write a critical study of the meteorological records of the first Shackleton Antarctic Expedition (1907-09) and, at the time of his death, had just completed a similar discussion of those of Sir Douglas Mawson's Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911–14. This latter work occupied the greater part of his spare time during the last eight or nine years and includes daily weather charts for the Antarctic quadrant to the south of Australia and New Zealand, analysed for the first time according to modern “frontal” methods. This work will be published shortly in Australia and will itself form a fitting memorial to the outstanding contribution which its author made to the knowledge of meteorology in Australasia.
Dr. Kidson stood in the front rank of British Meteorologists and had earned for himself an international reputation. In 1931 he was elected to the International Meteorological Committee, and always took an active interest in all the work of the International Meteorological Organisation. He attended the Conference of Empire Meteorologists held in London in 1935, and then took part in the International Conference of Directors of Meteorological Services which met that year in Warsaw. In both 1931 and 1935 he visited Norway, and returned to New Zealand with a first-hand acquaintance of modern frontal methods of analysing weather charts.
Although pre-eminent in the field of meteorology, Dr Kidson had a wide knowledge of other branches of physical science. He was also a good administrator. As a consequence of his modest and unassuming character it was only those who had the privilege of close association with him who learned to appreciate fully the value of his advice and the soundness of his judgment no matter what the subject might be. His criticism was always constructive, and to the point.
News of his sudden and unexpected death on 12th June, 1939, came as a profound shock to his friends and colleagues in all parts, of the world.
In the passing of Edward Kidson, New Zealand has lost a public-servant and a man of science of the highest standing.