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Volume 82, 1954-55
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Hugh William Segar, M.A., F.R.S.N.Z

The death of Professor H. W. Segar on 18th September, 1954, removed the last remaining member of that band of pioneer scientists elected as Original Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand on 20th November, 1919, and closes an epic chapter in the history of New Zealand science and education. New Zealand has been fortunate in having the services of her adopted son for sixty years.

Born in Liverpool in 1868, he was educated at Liverpool College, where he entered with a science scholarship open to boys of the Schools of Liverpool under the age of fourteen. With the aid of further scholarships he passed in due course through the Upper School where, when only sixteen years of age, he was first in the British Isles in each of the three subjects, pure mathematics, applied mathematics and science in the Cambridge Senior Local Examinations, open to all boys and girls under nineteen years of age. On the result of this brilliant performance he was offered a sizarship to St. John's College, Cambridge University, but this was declined as he felt that he was too young to leave school. At a later date he proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge, with a school scholarship and a Trinity College sizarship of £100 a year, the latter being converted afterwards to a Foundation Scholarship. At Cambridge he specialized in mathematics, and graduated in 1890 as Second Wrangler (the second highest mark in the mathematical tripos) and was awarded the Yeats Prize for being first amongst the Trinity College graduates. After two years of research work he was awarded one of two Smith's Prizes, given each year for mathematical research, and a prize of great distinction. To-day, this work would have qualified him for a doctoral degree which was, however, not in existence at the time. Had Professor Segar elected to stay in Great Britain it is possible that, with his qualifications, he would eventually have been invited to accept the chair of mathematics at one of the leading universities. However, after a short appointment for a few months as Lecturer in Mathematics at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, he accepted, in 1894, the appointment as Professor of Mathematics at Auckland University College, a position he held until his retirement in 1934.

In New Zealand he threw himself wholeheartedly into the work of the University and the community at large and few men, if any, in Auckland have given such public service in so many capacities over the last sixty years. For almost the whole period of his appointment he taught, single-handed, the subjects of pure and applied mathematics up to honours standard. A long list of mathematics prize winners is a tribute to his ability as a teacher. Although loaded with an intolerable burden of teaching on modern standards he still managed to carry out some research, but mainly in statistics and economics. The heavy work in the department and the university and the astonishing fact that the mathematical journals were not available in the Dominion made it impossible for him to continue the research work he had begun with such promise at Cambridge. His major contribution to mathematics while in England was an extended paper on the subject of integral functions which was, unfortunately, never published, but which has since been superseded by the work of others.

He served continuously on the Senate of the University of New Zealand from 1913 until his retirement in 1934. He was Chairman of the Academic Board from

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its incept on (earlier known as the Board of Studies) in 1915 until 1934, and a member of the Auckland University College Council from 1913 to 1929. University records indicate over the years the continued influence of Professor Segar on the organisation and advance of higher education in New Zealand. He clearly loved university work and had great affection for his students, an affection which was indeed mutual. On numerous occasions he championed the students when they were undeservedly taken to task by the local press for public misbehaviour.

Closely associated with his university work was his practical interest in the Workers' Educational Association, of which he was a member of the Council from 1915–1937, of the Tutorial Class Committee from 1915–1939, President in 1918 and 1924, and Vice-President from 1934–1937.

On his retirement from the chair of mathematics he was elected Professor Emeritus.

Professor Segar was the senior member of the Auckland Institute and Museum. He was President in 1900, the year of his election, and again in 1912 and 1932–33, and served continuously on the Council from 1900 until his retirement, on account of ill-health, in 1953, a record unequalled on any public body in Auckland. He gave numerous public lectures on a variety of subjects, his most popular ones being on astronomy, sometimes by popular request through the press.

For many years he contributed articles in the New Zealand Herald on economic and astronomy.

A wealth of knowledge made him an ideal chairman for public lectures and he gave his services freely in this connection over many years. He represented the Auckland Institute and Museum on the Council of the Royal Society, (formerly the New Zealand Institute) from 1914–1946, a length of service second only to that of the late Mr. B. C. Aston. He was elected an Original Fellow of the Royal Society in 1919, and in 1933–1935 achieved the highest honour of the Society in being elected President.

His interest in general education, apart from his special field of mathematics, led to his election as representative of the Professorial Board on the Committee of Advice of the Training College from its foundation until his retirement, as Governor of St. John's College, Tamaki, in 1908–1910, a member of the Auckland Grammar Schools Board, 1914–1946, a member of the Dilworth Trust Board, 1930–1952, and a member of the Auckland City Council Library Committee, 1915–1935.

His election as Vice-President of the Economic Society in 1930–1931, was an indication of the interest and ability he showed in economies during the later period of his career. His election as Vice-President in 1922–1923, and President, 1923–1924, of the Auckland Rotary Club, was a token of the esteem in which he was held in the business world outside university circles.

Professor Segar liver a very full life and was fortunate in enjoying robust health until within a few years of his death, when partial blindness and the aftereffects of a fall confined him to his room. As a boy he played Rugby football, and played in a team representing the secondary schools of Liverpool. Although he was not an active player in New Zealand he closely followed the games of the University Club for many years, was elected President of the club for a number of years, and served on the Management Committee of the Auckland Rugby Union. He was also a keen tennis player, and regularly played until over seventy yearn of age. Although he had his own private tennis court, he also played for many.

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Hugh William Segar, M.A, F.R.S.N.Z.

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years as a member of the Parnell Lawn Tennis Club, serving as President for a number of years. In later life he took up bowls with the Remuera Bowling Club, and was elected President of the Club in 1938–1939.

Like many scientists he also found much recreation in music.

Professor Segar will long be remembered by his many friends, past students and colleagues for his genial personality, his kindliness as host in his own house, and his unruffled temperament and calm judgment on committees. Science and education in Auckland owe a great debt to his life of service over sixty years in university and public affairs.


Some Inequalities, Messenger of Math., 1890, 19 (2), 189.

2. Some Inequalities, Messenger of Math, 1890, 20, 54.

3. A Theorem in Determinants. Messenger of Math, 1891, 20 (2), 141.

4. Question 11434, Educ. Times, 1892, 45, 82

5. Question 11402, Educ. Times, 1892, 45, 153.

6. On the Summation of Certain Series, Messenger of Math., 1892, 21, 145.

7. Note on a Remarkable Series of Numbers, Messenger of Math., 1892, 21, 191.

8. On a Determinantal Theory due to Jacobi, Messenger of Math., 1892, 21 (2), 148.

9. On the Multinominal Determinant, Messenger of Math., 1892, 21 (2), 177.

10. On an Inequality, Messenger of Math., 1892, 22, 47.

11. The Deduction of Certain Determinants from Others by Indeterminate Form, Messenger of Math. 1892, 22, 57.

12. On a Series of Points Given by Recurring Series, Messenger of Math., 1892, 22, 161.

13. Note on the Theory of Functions, Messenger of Math., 1893, 22, 181.

14 On the Roots of Certain Contimuants, Messenger of Math., 1893, 22 (2), 171.

15. Proof of a Theorem in the Theory of Numbers, Messenger of Math, 1893, 22, 31

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16. Limits of the Expression vp – yq/vq – yp Messenger of Math., 1893, 23, 47.

17. Population of New Zealand, Trans. N.Z. Inst., 1900, 33, 445.

18. Statistics of Insanity, Cancer and Phthis in New Zealand, Trans. N.Z. Inst., 1901, 34, 115.

19. Trade and Public Debt of New Zealand. Trans N.Z. Inst, 1902, 35, 117.

20 Flood of Gold, Trans. N. Z. Inst., 1902. 35, 122.

21 Note on the Veracity of the Returns of Age in the Census of 1901, Trans. N.Z. Inst., 1903, 36, 80.

22. On Certain Statistics Respecting the Trend of English Trade, Trans. N.Z. Inst., 1903, 36, 493.

23. A Note on Drawing for Competitions, Trans. N.Z. Inst., 1903, 36, 501.

24. Comparison of the Age Distribution of the Population of the Four Chief Provincial Districts of New Zealand, Trans. N.Z. Inst., 1903, 36, 504.

25. The Balance of Trade, Trans. N.Z. Inst., 1904, 37, 173.

26. The Struggle for Foreign Trade, Trans. N.Z. Inst., 1907, 40, 520.

27. Trasection of an Angle, Trans. N.Z. Inst., 1908, 41, 218.

28. Insanity: Some Comparative Statistics, Trans. N.Z. Inst., 1908, 41, 221.

29 Presidential Address to the Royal Society of New Zealand, Trans. Roy. Soc. N.Z. Inst., 1934, 64 XXVI.

L. H. B.