150 Years of Discovery

Explore Royal Society Te Apārangi's 150 years of discovery with this interactive timeline.

1840-07-06 22:52:39

1840s – Treaty and first organised European settlements established in New Zealand

In 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi is signed and the first organised European settlements are established as immigrants arrive from Britain with the New Zealand Company.

1841-07-06 22:52:39

1841 – New Zealand’s first scientific organisation established in Nelson

Literary and Scientific Institution of Nelson is formed mid-voyage on emigrant ship Whitby, with the initial collection of 700 books largely donated by passengers. Money is sent from England to buy more books, establish a museum, library and reading room. The Nelson Literary Scientific and Philosophical Institute continues to this day with lectures and discussion groups. The Institute's 170th birthday was celebrated on 22 May, 2011. [source: http://www.theprow.org.nz/society/nelson-institute/#.WB_my-V96Uk]

1851-07-01 22:52:39

1851 – The New Zealand Society is founded in Wellington

The New Zealand Society (later the Wellington Philosophical Society) is founded in Wellington with Governor Sir George Grey as founding president. Members intend to publish scientific papers as they go on to do in similar organisations founded later in Canterbury (1862) and Auckland (1867). None of them are able to do so, however, due to a lack of resources. These presses are later used for the Royal Society of New Zealand, Te Apārangi.

1862-10-05 00:31:43

1862 – Founding father of the Royal Society of New Zealand, James Hector arrives in Otago to take up the first of many New Zealand roles

17 April, 1862, James Hector arrives at Port Chalmers, Dunedin after 102 days travelling from London. Hector arrives to assume a role conducting a geological survey of the Otago province. It is the first time he has set foot in New Zealand. The Otago province discusses and commissions such a survey in the hope that the anticipated mineral wealth will buoy a regional economy, which has become stagnant prior to the 1860s. Hector travels throughout Otago, which at the time included Southland, contributing immeasurably to the understanding of the land beneath the feet of those who live there. At the time, Hector is one of the few people in Otago with any scientific training and consequently finds himself to be in high demand by organisations needing scientific input. In addition to producing a geological record of Otago – an area taking in more than sixty thousand square kilometres – Hector holds other significant roles, including Director of the Dunedin Water-Works Company, Commissioner of the Sanitary Commission in Dunedin, geologist to the Waste Lands Commission, committee member for the Otago Acclimatisation Society and Otago representative on the Flax Commission. In 1865, he is appointed to the Geological Survey in Wellington for three years. At this point, James Hector is widely considered to be the ‘father’ of the Royal Society of New Zealand, first called the New Zealand Institute. His career sees him effectively in control of the direction of New Zealand Science for several decades. He is ultimately responsible for the Meteorological Department, the Colonial Observatory, the Wellington Time-ball Observatory and the Botanic Garden of Wellington. He also assumes responsibility for the custody of the standard weights and measures and the Patent Office library. He is frequently called upon to advise in an official capacity on questions in the fields of science and technology, medicine and even commercial activity. R. K. Dell. 'Hector, James', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/1h15/hector-james (accessed 21 February 2017) Nathan, S., James Hector: Explorer, Scientist, Leader, Geoscience Society of New Zealand, Lower Hutt, 2015

1865-11-04 23:32:25

1865 – Hector establishes the New Zealand Geological Survey in Wellington

In August 1865, James Hector is appointed to establish a permanent Geological Survey in Wellington. He becomes the only scientist employed by the New Zealand Government for some time. By 1869, he is in charge of the Geological Survey, the Colonial Museum (also established in 1865), the New Zealand Institute, the Colonial Botanic Gardens and the Colonial Observatory in addition to being a trusted advisor to the Government. Nathan, S., James Hector: Explorer, Scientist, Leader Geoscience Society of New Zealand, Lower Hutt, 2015

1865-11-04 23:32:25

1865 – Hector founds the Colonial Museum behind Parliament with private collections. Earns himself fellowship to Royal Society of London

The Colonial Museum was established behind Parliament (on the then aptly named Museum Street, though it now has no museum). Founder, James Hector is adamant that a museum should be central to his new organisation and even lives adjacent to it. When the museum opens, it draws on some 14,000 items gathered from around New Zealand, including geological samples and recent specimens of shells in addition to collected Māori artefacts. Amongst the exhibits is one of the first-ever recognised dinosaur fossils, an Iguanadon tooth that Walter B.D Mantell – the first secretary of the New Zealand Institute – has inherited from his father, Gideon, an eminent naturalist in London. The museum opens in April the following year with an imposing display of moa and other giant birds greeting the viewer inside the door. 1865 is clearly a busy year for Hector. He is rewarded for his accomplishments by being recommended for a Royal Society of London fellowship by none other than the eminent botanist – and close friend of Charles Darwin – Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, elected a Fellow in 1866. Joseph Hooker, at the time, is the director of Kew Gardens and a supporter of both Hector and the new museum. Hooker famously claims a museum is one of the best ways to: “Screw money out of the public for science”. While his language may be jarring, Hooker’s words illustrate a desire to see science funded as effectively as possible. Beyond money, however, Hector and his contemporaries seek a permanent home for New Zealand science, seeing a museum as a step towards that goal.

1866-07-07 19:03:31

1866 – First-elected President of the New Zealand Institute, Frederick Wollaston Hutton arrives in New Zealand

The first-elected President of the New Zealand Institute, Frederick Wollaston Hutton leaves England and relocates to New Zealand in 1866 to begin a career as a flax miller. Before his arrival in New Zealand, Hutton spends time in the Royal Army, where he holds the rank of captain. During campaigns in Crimea and India, he becomes associated with officers of the geological survey and publishes papers on the application of geology to the military. He becomes greatly influenced by Darwin’s theory of evolution and an overarching theme in his work is the search for rational meaning. Eventually, it is both his geological and military backgrounds that are called upon when he is asked by the government to survey the defence requirements of the harbours of Auckland, Nelson, Wellington, Lyttelton and Port Chalmers. From 1871, Hutton works alongside James Hector at the Geological Survey Department and conducts a range of work, including the mapping of Southland under Hector’s instructions. He eventually becomes a lecturer in geology and first curator of the Otago Museum. Despite the time pressure these roles naturally place upon him, Hutton manages to produce catalogues of New Zealand birds, New Zealand fishes and New Zealand mollusc, the latter having his name indelibly attached through his seminal Manual of the New Zealand Mollusca (1880) among several other published catalogues. For 25 years from 1880, he works as professor of biology and lecturer in geology at Canterbury College and curator of the local museum. In 1892, he is elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London. Between 1904 to 1905, he is President of the New Zealand Institute (later Royal Society of New Zealand) and is commemorated by the Hutton Memorial Medal and Research Fund established after his death in 1905.

1867-09-06 13:53:32

1867 – The New Zealand Institute Act passes through Parliament, formally establishing a national organisation

On 16 August, 1867, a private member’s bill – the New Zealand Institute Act – is introduced into Parliament by William Travers. In addition to being a lawyer and politician, Travers is an avid explorer and naturalist. He also drafts the legislation establishing the Wellington Botanic Garden. Travers is one among many of his contemporaries who identify the need for New Zealand to formalise – and importantly, centralise – the country’s scientific research. James Hector and his management of the Colonial Museum and Geological Survey provides a central point around which such an institution can be built. Initially, the interested parties draw heavily on Parliament. A number of scientifically-minded politicians including William Colenso and Walter Mantell, who form important parts of the Society’s history, Charles Heaphy VC, prolific explorer and later of walking track fame, come together from around the country in support. This regional support, which coalesces around Hector, is important in creating a sense that the Institute is to represent the whole country. The Institute, which later becomes the Royal Society of New Zealand, is designed as a federated national organisation responsible for publishing the journal Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute. It is proposed to: “Establish an institute for the advancement of science and art in New Zealand” and the Act formalises the place of the newly-constituted museum and central scientific laboratory. This method of establishing a national organisation for the scientific community is rare in the rest of the world and shows the willingness of the New Zealand Government to take an activist role in the promotion of institutions for the benefit of the country. The Bill passes in October and the Institute is granted an income of £500 from the national government, a figure which remains the same for almost 60 years. Parliamentary debate on the Bill takes place in a time of financial austerity in New Zealand – a time of ‘retrenchment’ as members call it. Much of the disagreement over, and opposition to, the funding of the Institute centres on the need to conserve money for the central government. However, the benefits of such an organisation to the country are ultimately seen to outweigh this cost, particularly in the midst of the excitement surrounding mineral wealth in Otago (gold!) and other parts of the colony. A number of those in favour of the Bill note that it will also ensure the operation of the Institute free from political interference and party differences. Both the value to New Zealand society and a fierce independence remain the hallmarks of the modern day Royal Society of New Zealand.

1868-02-01 09:04:18

1868 – The new Board of Governors meets for the first time to draw up the Institute’s rules

The New Zealand Institute’s Board of Governors, with Governor Grey in the role of chair, first meet in January, 1868 to draw up the Institute’s rules. The rules are gazetted in March, 1868. For example, there are rules such as affiliated societies need to have at least 25 members subscribing at least £50 annually and papers read before societies can be published in the Institute’s journal. The rules also specify how the journal is to be published, how the Institute’s property is to be managed and how its library is to operate. The rules also include a provision known as the one-third-or-one-sixth rule, which relates to philosophical societies and institutes that operate museums and libraries. The rule says that if one third of an affiliated society’s income goes on such activities, they do not have to provide revenue (one sixth of their income) to the Institute. As such, the Wellington Philosophical Institute opts to pay up because it relies on the Colonial Museum and the Institute’s library rather than having its own. The Board comprises some of the most important and influential men in the colony. David Monro, a medical doctor and botanist in his own right, is also the son of the eminent Alexander Monro, Professor of Anatomy, University of Edinburgh. Governor Grey has an enduring interest in natural science and botany and is a scholar in Polynesian mythology. They are accompanied by EW Stafford (Colonial Secretary and Premier), Dr Isaac Featherston (Superintendent of Wellington Province), JE FitzGerald (journalist and Comptroller, Auditor-General and Canterbury’s political leader in its early years), Colonel TM Haultain (military leader and politician), Alfred Ludlam (horticulturalist and politician), WBD Mantell (son of palaeontologist and geologist Gideon Mantell and pioneering natural history scientist and politician) and WTL Travers (lawyer, explorer, naturalist collector and politician).

1869-11-04 14:29:45

1869 – The New Zealand Institute publishes the first volume of the Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute journal beginning a long history of publishing

The New Zealand Institute publishes the first volume of the journal, Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute. The first edition contains the inaugural address of the newly-arrived Governor, Sir George Ferguson Bowen, GCMG (Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George) and articles on topics as many and varied as recent earthquakes, moa bones, the waves in Lyttelton harbour, Celtic vowel sounds and observations of Māori culture. The edition is hampered by a shortage of both type and paper and the use of lithographs for all illustrations make publishing a challenge in the early years. In addition to documenting the wealth of new species of flora and fauna being discovered and catalogued in the new country, the Transactions journal devotes significant portions of its contents to the study of Māori. Everything from customs, food and clothing to hair and muscle form is studied in a flurry of effort to better understand the indigenous inhabitants of the new land. Ethnologically-minded Institute members such as William Colenso and later Elsdon Best work extensively and intimately with Māori. Others including early twentieth century President Augustus Hamilton gather vast collections of Māori art. John Buchanan – who already has a job at the Geological Survey – almost single-handedly illustrates the journal as required for the first twenty years. The journal proves to be a vital link between New Zealand and the rest of the world for disseminating the new-found knowledge of the young country’s scientific community. Simply referred to as Transactions, the journal is published for nearly a century, eventually being replaced by the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, which continues to this day.

1874-05-01 09:43:20

1874 – The Sumner Cave controversy pits two New Zealand scientific heavyweights against each other

The famous Sumner Cave controversy engulfs the New Zealand scientific community with the New Zealand Institute (as the Royal Society of New Zealand was then called) at the centre. The conflict is, at its heart, between the two leading lights of New Zealand Science –Julius Haast and James Hector –but soon embroils actors from as far away as London, as it threatens the hard-won federation of New Zealand science so shortly after it had been established. The controversy begins with Haast conducting an excavation of a seaside cave in Sumner where he finds evidence of human habitation and the bones of moa dating back many years. As part of his work he hopes to accurately date the arrival of human habitation in New Zealand. He has hypothesised that a moa-hunting civilisation that had frequented the caves is palaeolithic and predates Māori by thousands of years. Hector visits the caves during the excavation and as early as 1872, based on what he sees himself, feels compelled to publicly disagree with Haast’s interpretation. However, it isn’t until Alexander McKay publishes a paper in the Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute journal in 1874, which falls down on the side of Hector, that the dispute gains broad public attention. McKay, a stonemason and goldminer, has been employed by Haast during the excavation as a collector. McKay is of the same opinion as Hector regarding Haast’s hypothesis. After Haast delays publication on the matter, Hector encourages McKay to prepare a paper outlining McKay’s position for the Wellington Philosophical Society, which McKay duly does. Haast is apoplectic at the move, claiming that the knowledge McKay bases his paper on is rightfully his as McKay’s employer. Adding another wrinkle to the situation is the fact that McKay was introduced to Hector as an employee by Haast himself. Haast sees the paper as a: “Flagrant breach of faith and trust” and considers Hector as culpable as McKay. The matter is soon put to Joseph Dalton Hooker, as the President of the Royal Society of London, to adjudicate, but he ultimately feels the paper’s publication by the Institute is justified. In essence, he feels it is inconsiderate of McKay, but renders Haast’s case lost. Threats to withdraw the Canterbury Institute are made by Haast but ultimately come to nothing after Hooker dissuades him from further action, arguing in favour of the good of science. The outcome of the story is that the earth might have shaken under the feet of two mighty geologists, but the house stayed standing. The incident says a great deal about what the Society stands for now, as it did then. The disagreement between two princes of New Zealand science, while coloured with streaks of palace intrigue, was essentially a battle for the truth. Both men believed truth was theirs, but it was through review in the court of their scientific peers that the outcome was ultimately decided and through the Royal Society’s institutions and journal that their case was heard.

1880-12-02 20:07:53

1880s – Desire for reform of the Institute into a more inclusive, democratic organisation is articulated

Throughout the 1880s, a tension exists within the Institute about the best means of securing its future. In essence, there is a feeling in some quarters that James Hector’s close ties to government is diminishing the independence of the organisation. There is concern about the difficulty of balancing the enthusiastic pursuit of science against the reliance on the government for funding. George M Thomson, a naturalist, teacher and politician, is the foremost proponent of Institute reform, supported by Dr AK Newman and others sympathetic to the cause such as Haast and Hutton. The tension between Hector and Thomson in the 1880s expresses the difference between elite, academic science on the one hand and the broader inclusive view of science that takes in the amateur and the interested general public on the other. Thomson attempts to shift the Institute towards decentralisation and greater representation of local scientific societies, together with more emphasis on popular scientific publication. Thomson personally funds and publishes the New Zealand Journal of Science from 1882 to 1885 in aid of his cause. The Journal publishes articles on more speculative, theoretical and popular issues of the day than does the Transactions, notably articles on evolution and the germ theory of disease. Thomson finds favour with those who, like him, seek a revolution in the way science is presented and the desire to steer scientists towards a more inclusive, approachable and democratic scientific discourse. The idea of democracy is one that extends from publication to organisation and calls are made by the Otago Institute – at Thomson’s behest – to separate the affiliated societies of the Institute from the various institutions under Hector’s control. The argument being that science itself is staggering under the weight of official patronage, making it too dependent on Hector’s relationships alone, without sufficient oversight and guidance from the Board of Governors. The Institute needs re-building. The Board itself, Thomson argues, should be elected (rather than appointed) and be representative of the various societies. The editor and the contents of the Transactions should be steered by the new Board and the overall position of the organisation should be situated apart from government. Ultimately, and despite support from Canterbury and Southland, this agitation comes to nothing and its proposals ignored. But the wheels have been set in motion and some twenty years later the Institute becomes subject to the changes Thomson et al pushed for.

1880-12-03 20:07:53

1880 – RJ Scott, railway engineering prodigy, arrives in New Zealand from England

Robert Julian Scott, the English-born cousin of Antarctic explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott, a notable railway engineer arrives in New Zealand in 1880. He is responsible for producing the first New Zealand-designed and built powered passenger vehicle, after designing a 35-horsepower steam buggy, while he is just 20 years old! By the age of 26, he is the General Manager of New Zealand Government’s Addington Railway Workshops in Christchurch and, by age 28, is the head of the School of Engineering at the University of Canterbury. The School of Engineering is almost single-handedly transformed into one of Scott’s – and Scott’s alone – design. With a reputation for being imperious, Scott is also fiercely loyal and protective of his school and its students. By the time of his death in 1930, he has shaped the face of New Zealand engineering education into his own image. The Royal Society of New Zealand names the RJ Scott Medal in his honour to recognise excellence in engineering sciences and technologies, acknowledging the introduction of technology into the Society’s rubric.

1886-12-02 20:07:53

1886 – Local Institute members provide first-hand accounts of the Mt Tarawera eruption

The sudden and violent eruption of Mt Tarawera near Rotorua in 1886 is at once a boon for geological study and also a stark reminder of New Zealand’s dynamic seismic situation. The eruption itself destroys the world-famous pink and white terraces and blankets parts of the region in heavy layers of ash. It is the first time most of the new colonists have come face-to-face with such an event. Unsurprisingly, New Zealanders want information about the eruption, so numerous papers are presented in The Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute journal. Many papers are pure observations by those close enough to witness the eruption first hand. But there is also an appetite to better understand the phenomenon, so a number of papers attempt to explain it to a colonial public with little experience of volcanic activity. Naturally, the colonists are anxious to understand the implications of such a violent outburst, knowing they live in a land prone to volcanic activity across a wide area, particularly in the North Island. Read historic first-hand accounts of the eruption published in the Transactions journal.

1892-05-05 11:21:30

1892 – The Institute publishes the first journal papers written by women in the Transactions and Proceedings

Just a year before being granted the vote, New Zealand women publish their first papers in Volume 25 of the Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute journal. Miss Annette Wilson’s paper entitled: Analogy between Light and Sound: Are they Convertible? features alongside Miss Morrison’s National Melodies and After-images by Miss Katherine Browning. Katherine Browning attends Cambridge to study Moral Science prior to emigrating to New Zealand where she teaches at Napier Girls’ High School. During her career, she is hindered by a system that pays her University of New Zealand graduate colleagues more than her. She unsuccessfully attempts to have her Cambridge qualification converted to a local Bachelor of Arts. Ultimately, she is granted a Master of Arts from Trinity College, Dublin. She subsequently teaches in Dunedin and Varanasi, India, before retiring to volunteer work in England for the Vegetarian Society and the Non-Smokers’ Union among others.

1894-03-02 00:36:40

1894 – Ernest Rutherford publishes his first paper in the Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute journal, Vol. 27, entitled the Magnetization of Iron by High Frequency Discharges

Rutherford’s university education takes him from Canterbury College (now the University of Canterbury), where he gains three degrees, to the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge with a scholarship. In 1898, he accepts a professorship at McGill University in Montreal, where he discovers that the atoms of heavy atoms tend to decay, knowledge that leads to the practice of carbon dating today. In 1907, he assumes the position of Professor of Physics at Manchester University where he develops the Rutherford Model of the atom, describing the orbit of electrons around the dense nucleus. In his third major breakthrough, in 1917, Rutherford splits the atom during his famous gold foil experiment based on his work and that of his famous students, Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden (the Marsden fund is named after him). Rutherford is awarded the Nobel Prize in 1908, knighted in 1914, made a fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1919, made a Baron in 1931, appears on the New Zealand $100 note and has the element rutherfordium named after him. A recipient of many other awards, Rutherford is awarded the Society’s inaugural TK Sidey Award in 1933. The first Rutherford Medal was fittingly awarded to fellow Nobel Prize winner and world leading researcher, Alan MacDiarmid.

1903-04-02 06:05:18

1903 – A new Act of Parliament ushers in reforms GM Thomson pushed for in the 1880s making the Institute more democratic

Twenty years earlier, George M Thomson expresses a desire among members to make their Society more democratic. The eventual new Act of Parliament in 1903 makes special mention of this desire to link the Institute’s governance more closely with affiliated societies. For the first time the Board of Governors of the Institute comprises a majority of elected members, directly from the affiliates. The changes are fundamental in their effects and by their design. After several decades as the guiding hand of New Zealand science, James Hector retires from his positions. His departure leaves a significant hole in the organisation of science in New Zealand, particularly through his close association with government. For the first time in its history, the Institute establishes the position of president and the role of editor of the Transactions journal, both Board appointments. Additional funding refuses to be forthcoming, however, as the £500 government grant remains fixed, although, no longer subject to an annual vote by Parliament.

1903-06-04 10:32:34

1903 – Augustus Hamilton takes over the Colonial Museum

In addition to the new federal reconstitution of the Institute’s governing bodies, control of the Colonial Museum is cleaved from the mandate and Augustus Hamilton, one of the country’s foremost ethnologists and collectors of Māori artefacts, is installed as the Colonial Museum’s new Director, taking over from James Hector upon his retirement. Hamilton installs his own personal collection of artefacts in the museum, while continuing to expand the holdings more broadly. Hamilton, like many of his contemporaries is born in England (in 1853) and arrives in New Zealand in 1875 aboard the Collingwood with his parents. His father is the ship’s doctor. Augustus, a medical student in England for a time, takes on roles as a teacher in Wellington and the West Coast before settling in Hawke’s Bay. In his time there, he joins the Hawke’s Bay Philosophical Society and comes to know distinguished scientists such as William Colenso. He also begins a collection of Māori artefacts and publishes scientific papers on local wildlife, including moa. His most important work, however, is his magnum opus The art and workmanship of the Māori race in New Zealand, commonly referred to as ‘Hamilton’s Māori Art’. It fast becomes a collector’s piece and his work broadly takes on a new significance as Parliament places new emphasis on the preservation of Māori antiquities. Hamilton becomes a scientist of varied interests, with his work turning at various points to botany, entomology, zoology, geology, archaeology and history.

1905-12-01 08:36:39

1905 – The New Zealand Institute establishes its first fund, the Hutton Memorial Fund, after president FW Hutton dies suddenly

In 1905, incumbent president of the New Zealand Institute (later Royal Society of New Zealand), FW Hutton dies suddenly, spurring the establishment of the Hutton Memorial Fund, the first such fund for the Institute. The fund is set up to award the Hutton Medal for outstanding achievement in zoology, botany or geology – and also provides grants for future research in the same fields. The medal is first awarded in 1911 to Professor Sir William Benham, a leading light in New Zealand biological sciences, in particular zoology. In 1879, Benham travels to London to study, returning to assume a professorship at the University of Otago in 1898. By this stage, he is a well published and world renowned zoologist. Known for an orderly yet informal style of class, Benham reorganises the Otago University Museum as curator. In addition to zoology, botany, palaeontology and dental anatomy are among the diverse range of topics he teaches, while his first choice of research topic is earthworms. Following the turn-of-the-century reforms at the New Zealand Institute, Benham holds the posts of governor, president and fellow at the Institute. Following the awarding of the Hutton Medal, Benham goes on to win the Hector Memorial Medal and Prize in 1935 and is knighted in 1939.

1907-12-06 08:36:39

1907 – Founder of the New Zealand Institute and one of New Zealand’s most influential scientists, Sir James Hector, dies

After decades at the helm of New Zealand science, Sir James Hector dies in Lower Hutt, a year after his election as the second President of the New Zealand Institute he founded. He retires from his role at the Institute around the same time as its constitution is reviewed, making it more representative in its governance having – virtually singlehandedly – shepherded it from inception in 1867. During his career, Hector receives many honours, including Fellow of the Royal Society (1866), Order of the Golden Cross (1874), Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG, 1875), the Lyell Medal of the Geological Society (1876) and Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG, 1887). In 1891, he is awarded the Royal Geographical Society's Founder's Medal. He is appointed to the council of the University of New Zealand and to the university senate in 1871, and is chancellor of the university from 1885 to 1903. [ref: Te Ara.govt.nz] The New Zealand Institute honours him in 1911 by establishing the Hector Medal and Prize as their major award for excellence in research.

1908-12-02 08:36:39

1908 – Naturalist, Johannes C Andersen begins his series on the birdsong of native New Zealand species

As the new European immigrants arrive in New Zealand, they begin the work of describing and recording the new species of flora and fauna they encounter. In the case of bird life, naturalists are presented with the problem of how to describe the song of the new native birdlife. Naturally, in a time without recording technology, the work requires some creative thinking. A paper by Johannes C Andersen, published in the Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute journal (the journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand as it was then called) in 1914, attempts to describe the call of New Zealand birdlife. The paper shows Andersen’s attempt to score the sound of the tui, perhaps the most evocative sound of the New Zealand tree-tops. Andersen uses sheet music to illustrate the songs he hears. Over time, he develops the finer points of bird song, even discussing the pronunciation differences between southern specimens and birds found on Kapiti Island. He becomes a popular speaker and broadcaster and delights crowds young and old with his mimicking of the bird songs he so assiduously studied. Andersen frequently publishes his work in the Transactions journal, starting with a series on New Zealand birdsong in 1908, updating it every two years until Volume 50 in 1918. Ultimately, he publishes a book entitled Birdsong and New Zealand Song Birds in 1926, as well as numerous books on topics as varied as Polynesian mythology, Māori place names and his own poetry. Between 1920 and 1929, Andersen edits the Transactions journal. He is elected a fellow of the Institute in 1923. During this time, Andersen is also the founding librarian of the Alexander Turnbull library, assuming the post in 1919 and holding it for 18 years. In addition to writing, Andersen is a champion gymnast, a distinguished tennis and chess player. The Transactions journal is filled with similar work by amateur researchers and scholars. Andersen is typical of the contributors in the early days of the Society, who are well educated people with a thirst for knowledge and who are willing to contribute on a range of topics.

1911-12-07 08:36:39

1911 – Sir Charles Hercus graduates with the first class of the University of Otago’s Dental School

Hercus is a graduate of the first class of the University of Otago’s Dental School, graduating in 1911. During his training, he is inspired to also pursue medicine, graduating – again from Otago – in 1914. With the outbreak of war, Hercus resigns from Christchurch Hospital and joins the New Zealand Medical Corps serving in both Gallipoli (where, reportedly, he is the only man to go ashore with a microscope) and Palestine, receiving DSO and OBE in 1917 and 1919 respectively. Hercus assumes the role of professor of public health and bacteriology at the University of Otago, where he is very active in medical education to the benefit of social and preventative medicine, eventually becoming dean of the school. He was knighted in 1947 and remains credited with transforming the medical school into the modern institution it is today. In 1996, the Royal Society of New Zealand establishes the Hercus Medal for excellence in molecular and cellular sciences, biomedical science or clinical science and public health, awarded every two years.

1912-01-03 14:32:01

1912 – The Hector Memorial Medal and Prize is awarded to botanist Leonard Cockayne following the death of the Institute’s founder, Sir James Hector in 1907

The Hector Memorial Medal and Prize, established after Hector’s death in 1907, is first awarded in 1912 to Dr Leonard Cockayne for research in botany. The Hector Medal recognises work that contributes to the advancement of botany, chemistry, ethnology, geology, physics (including mathematics and astronomy) and zoology (including animal physiology). Cockayne is variously described as the ‘most important botanist’ to have lived in New Zealand, ‘the greatest of the Empire’s botanists’ [nzetc.victoria.ac.nz] and the ‘father of modern science in New Zealand’. Cockayne is born in England, but New Zealand is where his passion flourishes. He conducts the first and greatest survey of New Zealand vegetation, published in 1921, concurrently compiling numerous reports on other such surveys for the New Zealand Government. In the course of his survey, he takes time to vigorously oppose what he feels are blunders in the acclimatisation of introduced species as an early exponent of bio-security. His lasting legacies are numerous, but one of the most enduring is the introduction of plant ecology as a means of understanding the biodiversity of New Zealand’s flora. Under this theory, plants are understood as products of their soil and environment, rather than randomly distributed. In application, this leads to Cockayne’s plans to halt encroaching sand dunes by using plants designed to live in them. Cockayne is single-minded in his desire to improve New Zealand’s botanical knowledge. In the same year he is awarded the Hector Medal, he is elected as a fellow of the Royal Society of London and, two years later, is awarded the Hutton Memorial Medal. In 1926, Cockayne establishes the gardens at Otari-Wilton Bush in an attempt to showcase New Zealand’s biodiversity to the public. In September 2016, the garden that he established now sprawls over 100ha and is awarded a six-star rating by the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture (RNZIH) New Zealand Gardens Trust. The award designates the garden as one of international significance, a fitting tribute to the work of a man who himself changed the landscape of botany.

1913-09-11 01:41:15

1913 – Biologist, ethnologist, museum director and former Institute president, Augustus Hamilton dies

After appointed as James Hector’s replacement to manage the Colonial Museum, Hamilton is still in the post when he dies. He has installed his own personal collection of artefacts in the museum while continuing to expand the holdings more broadly. Hamilton serves on the New Zealand Institute in numerous capacities, including as honorary editor (1903 to 1908), honorary librarian (1903 to 1913) and finally president (1909 to 1910). He is remembered mostly for his landmark work The art and workmanship of the Māori race in New Zealand, commonly referred to as ‘Hamilton’s Māori Art’.

1919-09-11 12:39:42

1919 – Reforms originally called for by GM Thomson in the 1880s are pushed through by his son, James Allan Thomson. One such reform sees the election of the Institute’s first fellows

In 1919, James Allan Thomson produces a report on science in New Zealand that notes the financial situation of the New Zealand Institute. The report suggests the Institute’s beleaguered finances are hampering its ability to make the contribution Thomson feels it should. Not only is the Institute hamstrung by a reliance on a government grant, which never increases, it is also subject to private endowments that are not forthcoming. Thomson’s solution is to increase the public profile of the Institute, as well as work on the popular education of science. Thomson’s report eventually leads to the successful establishment of a body of fellows in 1919, selected on the basis of research or distinction in science and comprising the past presidents and Hector and Hutton medalists, with others elected to make up a total of twenty. Societies nominate candidates, fellows make the initial selection, while the Board of Governors makes the final election. Being a fellow of the Institute soon becomes the highest scientific honour in New Zealand. Fellows are a mix of those who have already achieved eminence, who are self-trained, as well as amateur enthusiasts. In the early days, only a third of fellows hold university degrees. The original fellows were: Aston, Bernard Cracroft, FRIC FCS FRSNZ (1871 – 1951) Benham, Sir William Blaxland, KBE MA DSc FRS FRSNZ FZS (1860 – 1950) Best, Elsdon FNZI (1856 – 1931); Cheeseman, Thomas Frederic, FNZI FLS FZS (1846 – 1923)  Chilton, Charles, MA DSc LLD MB CM FNZI FLS CMZS (1860 – 1929); Cockayne, Leonard, CMG PhD FRS FRSNZ FLS (1855 – 1934) Easterfield, Sir Thomas (Hill), KBE MA PhD FRSNZ FRIC FCS (1866 – 1949); Farr, Clinton Coleridge, DSc FPSL FRS FRSNZ (1866 – 1943) Hogben, George, CMG MA FNZI FGS (1853 – 1920) Hudson, George Vernon, FRSNZ FES (1867 – 1946) Kirk, Harry Borrer, MA FRSNZ (1859 – 1948)  Marshall, Patrick, MA DSc FRSNZ FGS FRGS FES (1869 – 1950)  Petrie, Donald, MA PhD FNZI FLS (1846 – 1925)  Rutherford of Nelson, Lord, OM, DSc NZ PhD FRS Nobel Laureate FRSNZ FRoyAcaddLincei HonDSc NZ, Bristol,Cantab,Cape Town, Dublin, Durham, Leeds, Liv, Lond, Melb, Oxon, Paris, Toronto HonLLD B’ham, Copenhagen, Edin, Glas, McGill, Manc, Melb, Paris, Penn, Wisc) HonPhD Geissen, Yale HonDPhys Clark(1871 – 1937) Segar, Hugh William, MA FRSNZ (1868 – 1954)  Smith, Stephenson Percy, FRSNZ FRGS (1890 – 1922) Speight, Robert, MA MSc FRSNZ FGS (1867 – 1949) Thomas, Sir Algernon Phillips Withiel KCMG MA FRSNZ FLS (1857 – 1937) Thomson, Hon George Malcolm, FRSNZ FLS MLC (1848 – 1933) Thomson, James Allan, MA DSc FNZI AOSM FGS (1881 – 1928) Thomson is New Zealand’s first Rhodes Scholar and enjoys a short but very successful career as a geologist and palaeontologist in addition to holding the directorship of the Dominion Museum for 14 years. He is instrumental in establishing the fellowship at the Society in 1919 and continuing efforts to reform the Institute, which his father, George, is involved in some decades before. His scholarship sees him attend Oxford where he subsequently teaches before returning to New Zealand in 1909 to marry, before moving to Western Australia to survey the goldfields. The resulting papers from his findings earn him a doctorate from the University of New Zealand. Thomson is selected as the geologist for Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition to the South Pole, but contracts pulmonary tuberculosis and is forced to withdraw. He is appointed palaeontologist to the New Zealand Geological Survey in Wellington in 1911 and succeeds Augustus Hamilton as director of the Dominion Museum in 1914. He is awarded the Hutton Memorial Medal in 1923 by the New Zealand Institute. He serves on the Institute’s Board of Governors and is elected a fellow in 1919, eventually assuming the presidency in 1928 before dying of tuberculosis shortly thereafter.

1920-08-24 17:17:15

1920 – The Institute hires Miss Mimie Wood, indispensable to the organisation for over 40 years

Secretary Mimie Wood is employed by the Institute from 1920 as assistant secretary and from 1931 as general secretary. At the end of her tenure, she is awarded an MBE and has her long and devoted service to science in New Zealand placed on record by the Society. During the depression years of the early 1930s, her salary is cut back and the Institute alters her working hours to mitigate the impact of the cuts. She carries a huge administrative load for a very long time. As Fleming says, she was known after Council meetings laden down with work [to] collapse into her chair and exclaim: “When I leave this job, you mark my words five people will replace me”.’ Wood is central to the organisation for more than 40 years. Single-handedly, she holds the Society’s administration together as a self-described, all-purpose secretary-accountant-librarian. As president C Coleridge Farr says: “She put me right in the many places where otherwise I should have gone wrong,” and that she is more correctly described as assistant president. “For without her advice and assistance, I fear the affairs of the Institute would speedily become entangled.” Wood is responsible for the library until 1955. Honorary librarian Professor HB Kirk says: “I wish I could make a report that would show that I had proved worthy of the honour, but I cannot. All the good work that has been done in the library has been done by Miss Wood, who has shown herself very zealous and competent.” However, Cockayne, someone less appreciative of her contribution, says: “Is SHE on the committee?” when Wood ventures an opinion at an Institute committee meeting. Wood retires in 1962, having worked for the Society for 42 years. In a letter to a branch thanking them for a retirement gift, she concedes their generosity given that she had: “Perhaps unmercifully hounded them to do this, to write that and to report immediately, etc, etc.” She eventually receives six months’ leave on full pay, a bonus of £500 on her retirement, a silver tea service and an illuminated address. Fleming considers that she worked: “For a pittance and in such indifferent working conditions that there was no prospect of a replacement” on similar terms.

1920-09-09 01:41:15

1920 - The Hamilton Memorial Prize is established in honour of ethnologist and former Institute president, Augustus Hamilton

After the death of ex-president and Director of the Colonial Museum, Augustus Hamilton, in 1913 the Institute establishes the Hamilton Memorial Prize in 1920 for beginners in science – these days similarly awarded for Early Career Research Excellence.

1922-07-20 01:06:29

1928 – Former president, eminent geologist and Society reformer, James Allan Thomson dies

In 1928, James Allan Thomson dies after working to increase the profile of the Institute, establishing the fellows, democratising the organisation – ultimately finishing a job his father started – and becoming president of the Institute.

1923-03-02 16:04:17

1923 – The first Hamilton Memorial Prize is awarded to JG Myers for his emerging work in entomology

In 1923, JG Myers is awarded the inaugural Hamilton Memorial Prize for his work on New Zealand Hemiptera (insects such as cicadas and bugs). The Prize is for emerging researchers in scientific or technological research in New Zealand and is named after the former president Augustus Hamilton. Myers, an entomologist, travels the globe with his work. He emigrates to New Zealand with his parents shortly before the First World War, in which he serves with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in Europe. Post-war, he gains a master’s degree from Victoria University College in Wellington. Between 1919 and 1924, he works on cattle ticks and other pastoral pests at the Biological Division of the New Zealand Department of Agriculture. Following a scholarship to Harvard University to gain a doctorate in science, he continues his work on parasites, particularly those harmful to New Zealand’s primary industries. His search for means of controlling such pests takes him to the West Indies, Guyana and Surinam and leads to him producing a report of international significance. In 1937, Myers is appointed economic botanist to the government of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan to survey the agricultural possibilities of the southern regions of the country. He dies in the Sudan in 1942.

1931-01-01 10:56:22

1931 – The Hawke’s Bay earthquake spurs the Royal Society of New Zealand to advocate for more stringent building codes

The powerful 1931 earthquake, which shakes Hawke’s Bay, moves the Society to lobby Ministers to pass a Building Construction Act designed to minimise earthquake and fire risk. The Society sends a delegation to review the damage in person. After several meetings with Ministers, the move is rebuffed by Prime Minister Forbes in 1934, admitting there is too much opposition to the Bill with members preferring regulations by municipal authorities. The action leads to the Society increasing its engagement with decision makers.

1932-10-06 00:14:32

1932 – Sir Peter Buck Te Rangi Hiroa becomes the first Māori recipient of an Institute prize, winning the Hector Medal for his prodigious and important work in anthropology

In 1932, Peter Buck – also known as Te Rangi Hiroa – becomes the first Māori recipient of a New Zealand Institute medal or award when he wins the prestigious Hector Medal and Prize. At this time, Buck is firmly established as one of if not the preeminent New Zealand anthropologist working on Māori and Polynesian issues. Trained as a doctor at the University of Otago, Buck graduates in 1904 shortly before being appointed as a medical officer for Māori, working as deputy to Taranaki doctor, Maui Pomare. The two of them begin a campaign to improve the sanitation and health of Māori settlements leading to a population recovery at the turn of the century. Buck briefly enters politics in 1909 when he is elected to the Northern Māori seat in Parliament, acting as Māori representative in Cabinet. During the First World War, he works to recruit Māori and serves as medical officer to a volunteer contingent of Māori soldiers who participate in the Gallipoli landings. Following the war, he is appointed director of the Māori Hygiene Division of the Department of Health and is part of a large mobilisation of the Māori community towards better health. Eventually moving away from medicine, Buck becomes particularly involved in anthropology, researching Polynesian and Māori communities, albeit in an amateur capacity initially. Eventually he is offered a position at the Bishop Museum in Hawaii, eventually assuming the museum directorship after a spell as a visiting professor at Yale University. Te Rangi Hiroa takes the lead in Māori anthropology. He publishes and popularises Māori and Polynesian culture in a way that engages both a New Zealand and international audience. Buck is elected a fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1925. Over his career he is also awarded the Hector Memorial Medal and Prize (see 1912) in 1932 by the Society, honorary doctorates from the University of New Zealand, Rochester University, the University of Hawaii and Yale University. He is knighted in 1946.

1933-03-16 16:17:12

1933 George M Thomson dies after a career serving New Zealand education and science as well as being a driving force behind reform in the New Zealand Institute

From the 1880s George M Thomson is a vocal supporter of reform within the Royal Society of New Zealand – then the New Zealand Institute. It is his agitation that sets in motion the reconstitution, establishing the representative governance model in place today. Outside the Institute, Thomson is a vastly influential figure in New Zealand Science. English but born in India, Thomson arrives in New Zealand in 1868 where he attempts unsuccessfully to farm property in Southland before taking up teaching positions in Dunedin. Thomson’s life is one of constant tragedy, outliving four children and two wives, while remaining steadfast in his efforts to educate the young minds of Otago by founding or presiding over numerous educational institutions. Notably, he establishes Columba College, the Dunedin Free Kindergarten Association and Workers’ Educational Association classes across the city. Thomson’s academic work is also vast, publishing 375 papers and articles on plants, crustaceans, fish and fisheries. He has a taxanomical order named in his honour. He launches and funds the New Zealand Journal of Science in 1882 and goes on to petition government for the establishment of the marine research centre at Portobello, where he works and whose board he chairs. (The Portobello facility is also the primary workplace of the Society’s first female award recipient, Betty Batham [link to Batham]). Thomson’s efforts to separate the New Zealand Institute from government scientific bodies sets the model for such organisations today. He joins parliament in 1908, becoming a vocal champion of education and science. On the national stage, Thomson is able to spread the influence he fostered in Dunedin across the country.

1933-06-01 11:23:17

1933 - The Royal Society of New Zealand establishes the TK Sidey Medal in honour of one of the key advocates for Daylight Saving’s introduction to New Zealand

Every three years, since 1933, the Royal Society of New Zealand awards the TK Sidey Medal to celebrate outstanding scientific research into electromagnetic radiation. The medal is first awarded to the doyen of New Zealand physics, Lord Ernest Rutherford of Nelson. The medal is named after Sir Thomas Kay Sidey who serves in parliament between 1901 and 1928, holding the roles of Attorney General, Leader of the Legislative Council and Minister of Justice. Sidey is a staunch daylight saving advocate and helps shepherd the Summer Time Act 1927 through Parliament. Daylight saving is a hugely contentious issue when it is first suggested. Endless debate and even heated arguments take place among friends, scientists, journalists and politicians. In New Zealand, it is introduced in 1927 to add an extra daylight hour for sport and gardening in the evening. As forerunner to the TK Sidey Medal, the TK Sidey Summertime Fund is initially set up and administered by The New Zealand Institute to reward scientific contribution on light in relation to human welfare.

1933-07-02 10:41:40

1933 - The New Zealand Institute undergoes a further realignment and adopts the name Royal Society of New Zealand

In 1933, the New Zealand Institute becomes the Royal Society of New Zealand. The new Royal Society of New Zealand Act 1933 focuses the organisation’s attention squarely on science. New Zealand now has a population of specialist scientists to tackle the task. The humanities disciplines are not formally returned to the remit until 2010. In 1930, President Professor CC Farr suggests that the Royal New Zealand Institute is an appropriate acknowledgement of the place of the organisation, distinguishing it from all the other New Zealand Institutes pertaining to other professions such as real estate agents and surveyors. Ultimately, Royal Society of New Zealand is the chosen name, largely because it is considered more euphonious and in keeping with similar institutions elsewhere in the British Empire. The new Royal Society of New Zealand Act formalises changes to the Society’s constitution made in previous years, enshrining changes to member bodies, establishing the Council, outlining the relationship with the Governor-General, as well as the role of the fellows, the awards, prizes and medals and position of committees. In the latter half of the 1930s, four of the six local societies became branches, the Wellington Philosophical Society, Philosophical Institute of Canterbury, Otago Institute and Hawke’s Bay Philosophical Institute. The Auckland Institute and Nelson Institute retain their existing titles. Due to the Depression-era economy, the Government grant for the Society is fixed at £500. This amount is the same as the very first grant allocated to the old New Zealand Institute in 1867!

1936-06-04 06:52:53

1936 – Eminent mycologist, Kathleen M Curtis becomes the Society’s first female fellow

In 1936, Kathleen M Curtis is elected at the Society’s first female fellow. She is also the first New Zealand woman to gain a Doctor of Science degree when she is granted the degree by the University of London in 1919 for her work on wart disease in potatoes. She goes on to do highly valuable research as chief mycologist at the Cawthron Institute in Nelson. Her work includes the control of fungal diseases and the boosting of horticultural outputs from apple trees, Pinus radiata, tomatoes and tobacco. Curtis’s work on brown spot in apricots is equally beneficial to that industry and typical of the practical applications her research continues to provide over her 33 years at the Institute. Curtis is held in high regard by her colleagues and by representatives of the primary industries. Her work contributes to the country’s agricultural and orchard sectors, as well as forestry.

1947-03-20 23:16:49

1947 – Sir Ernest Marsden is elected president of the Society, but serves only four months

Sir Ernest Marsden is elected president of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1947, but moves to London four months later as New Zealand’s Science Liaison Officer. The Marsden Fund takes its name from physicist Sir Ernest Marsden (1889 – 1970) who makes a remarkable contribution to science both in New Zealand and overseas. His career in science begins at Manchester University as an undergraduate working with the New Zealand experimental physicist Ernest Rutherford. Marsden moves to New Zealand in 1915 and is instrumental in placing science into an industry context for New Zealand. In 1922, he becomes the Department of Education’s Assistant Director and, in 1926, the founding Secretary of the new Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR). His science background and skills as a lobbyist and forward thinker, ensures the establishment of a department that supports all aspects of farming, New Zealand’s main industry. The divisions Crop Research, Plant Disease, Grasslands, Fruit Research, Botany, Entomology and the Soil Bureau are established. Marsden’s trademark is his ability to link outside and government funding. The Marsden Fund is so named in recognition of this scientific leader whose lively imagination and provocative ideas epitomise what the fund stands for.

1947-03-20 23:16:49

1947 – The first female recipient of a Society award is bestowed upon marine biologist, Betty Batham for her work at the Portobello Marine Biological Station

In 1947, Elizabeth (Betty) Joan Batham becomes the first woman ever to win a Royal Society of New Zealand prize, medal or award of any sort when she wins the Hamilton Memorial Prize. The prize is named after Augustus Hamilton, president of the Society between 1909 and 1910. Batham focuses her research on hydatids (cystic growths caused by tapeworms) and teaches physiology and botany part-time while studying plankton in her spare time. Her work at the Portobello Marine Biological Station (through the University of Otago) reinvigorates the facility and gains an international reputation, despite not being connected by road or ferry and requiring a half an hour walk over farmland to get to it. She struggles with a lack of resources in the early years of the dilapidated station. Nonetheless the aging, neglected constituent parts of the facility are renovated or replaced by the 1960s after its previous life as a fish hatchery, established at the behest of one George M Thomson, himself a significant figure in the history of the Society. It continues to play a significant part in the University’s marine science research to this day. Batham is made a fellow of the Society in 1962 and qualifies as a scuba diver in her 50s, believing it to be important for her work. Tragically, in 1974, she is presumed drowned off the coast of Seatoun in Wellington while diving. In 2008, the Portobello station, now called the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre, unveils a new exhibit, taking visitors on a virtual tour of the sea bed. The exhibit is named the DSV Batham.

1949-03-04 23:16:49

1949 – Biologist and editor of the Transactions journal, Marion Fyfe becomes the first woman to be elected to the Society’s council

In 1949, Marion Liddell Fyfe becomes the first woman to be elected to the Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand. She teaches in the biology department at the University of Otago and sits on the council, representing Otago’s regional branch. Her publications focus particularly on planarians and other flatworms. Her work is particularly instructive on the reproductive processes of the creatures. She is editor of the Transactions journal, where she seeks to improve the standard of papers.

1949-03-04 23:16:49

1949 – Following the war the Society hosts the 1949 International Science Congress

Even after the 1930s depression clouds have passed, the Society still struggles financially with the demands of publishing the Transactions journal and the burden of its library. With a return to peacetime conditions in the latter half of the 1940s, the government’s attitude softens and the grant begins to increase. The Society’s finances are further aided by a large windfall in 1949 for hosting the International Science Congress and publishing its proceedings. The congress provides long-lasting benefit to New Zealand’s scientific community, an ‘intellectual renaissance’ for those deprived of international contacts and for graduates whose prospective careers are interrupted by war. An original photograph of the attendees can be viewed at the Society’s Thorndon headquarters [dates].

1958-01-26 03:42:53

1958 – In honour of Dr Leonard Cockayne, triennial lectures are established by a Society fund

A fund established in honour of Dr Leonard Cockayne (who dies in 1934) supports triennial Leonard Cockayne Memorial Lectures. Rules for this are drawn up in 1958 and, after a further appeal prompted by Fleming, Dr Lucy B Moore in 1965 gives the first lecture on Leonard Cockayne, Botanist to all branches. The lectures continue to this day. More can be learned about Dr Cockayne and details about the most recent in the lecture series can be found [http://www.royalsociety.org.nz/events/academy-lectures/leonard-cockayne-lecture/]

1958-03-01 23:16:49

1958 – The first Cooper Medal is awarded to Dr CD Ellyet for his work on radio communications and research into the upper atmosphere

The first Cooper Medal is awarded in 1958 in honour of Dr ER Cooper, the war-time director of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research’s (DSIR) Dominion Physical Laboratory who dies suddenly in 1952. Cooper is a passionate advocate for keeping New Zealand science – in particular, physics – organised and in the public eye after the war. The Medal is awarded every two years for the best original research work carried out in New Zealand in physics or engineering and is first won by Dr CD Ellyett. Ellyett, who goes by Clif, is involved in the improvement of radio communications in the Pacific during the war through his research into the ionosphere and its ability to bounce radio waves far beyond line of sight. He gathers and processes data from remote areas of the Pacific, including the Pitcairn, Kermadec and Campbell Islands, as well as more established areas such as the Cook Islands and Fiji. Post-war, Ellyet turns his research to the upper atmosphere and the observation and measurement of meteors. In 1948, he and a colleague at the Jodrell Bank Radio Observatory in Cheshire are the first to measure the velocity of meteors by radar. In 1950, he returns to the University of Canterbury and establishes a field station at Rolleston to look at the heavens in the Southern Hemisphere. He and an assistant build the station themselves using surplus equipment from the war. Eventually, the work attracts the attention and, most importantly, financial backing of groups such as the United States Airforce and NASA. In addition to winning formal scientific awards, Clif Ellyet has a celestial body named after him. Minor Planet 5378 ELLYET is named in his honour following the completion of a broad-ranging survey of Southern Hemisphere meteors.

1960-01-01 03:42:53

1960s – The Society supports the development of the science fair programme around New Zealand, involving the next generation of scientists

The first science fair is in Auckland in 1960, initiated by Professor LH Briggs who is inspired by school exhibitions organised by the Science Foundation in San Francisco. The Society is not immediately very responsive, President Allan “did not see how the Royal Society could do more than express its interest in the scheme and wish it well.” The science fair movement blossoms with events in the Hawke’s Bay in 1968 and Dunedin in 1972 and other regional centres, supported by the Science Teachers Association, Kiwanis Clubs of New Zealand and the Society. Branches of the Society act as sponsors, with the national body providing grants-in-aid. In most centres, the Society gives the main prize for the best entry. From 1977, selected exhibits from regions compete at an annual national science fair, sponsored by Philips Electrical (New Zealand). From 1981, the regional fairs are organised by the Kiwanis, the Society and the Science Teachers Association with the national fair sponsored by ICI. About 2,500 exhibits are entered. In 1983, a Science Fair Board is set up, chaired by Professor James Duncan and with ICI, Kiwanis, Science Teachers and the Society represented. The Society agrees to provide secretarial assistance and some travel support. The numbers of entries grow to more than 5,000 within a few years and by the late 1980s to more than 7,000. Following a study by the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology (MoRST) in 1990, the traditional science fairs are replaced by efforts to foster a culture that values science in its own right. The Society remains involved with other interactive science initiatives, however, through programmes such as the BP Technology Challenge and latterly the CREST programme.

1960-01-08 03:42:53

1960s – The Society re-energises its commitment to international, universal science through the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU)

In the post-war world, the Society’s relationship with international science becomes increasingly important. The USA National Academy of Sciences establishes a National Research Council during the First World War and other countries follow suit. The International Research Council, formed in 1919, becomes the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) in 1931 under which are a wide range of disciplinary international unions. Its philosophy is founded on the universality of science and its independence from government and politics. In the early 1960s, New Zealand’s involvement with the ICSU is re-established on a firmer footing by Fleming. The Society’s ICSU Committee is reconstituted in 1962 and becomes the International Committee in 1966, convened by the newly-appointed International Secretary, with a more general advisory role. From this time, the Society obtains additional funding for its international responsibilities, including international travel, which is built into the government grant. It becomes a Society commitment to have New Zealand representation at the assemblies of the ICSU and its unions. The Society’s considerable international role adds weight to the argument to become an academy and include national scientific organisations under its umbrella.

1964-01-10 03:42:53

1964 – New Zealand’s pre-eminent rocket scientist, William Pickering receives an honorary fellowship from the Society for his work on the NASA space programme

William Pickering’s achievements are both prolific and varied, but his story starts in Wellington where he is educated at Wellington College – an education he credits with enthusing him about science. After a year studying electrical engineering at the University of Canterbury, he moves to the prestigious California Institute of Technology where he completes his Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate degrees in physics. Ultimately, he becomes Professor of Electrical Engineering in 1944. Following a successful career as a researcher and educator at Caltech, including providing war-time advice to the United States Navy, Pickering joins the staff at the Institute’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) working on rocket propulsion systems. Caltech names him director of JPL in 1954. Pickering leads the JPL and renowned German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun’s team from the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in answering the Cold War challenge presented by the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik in 1957. The two teams launch Explorer 1, America’s first satellite, only 83 days after being ordered to by the President. From 1958, JPL becomes a private contractor for the newly-formed NASA and JPL-built spacecraft travels to, lands on, and documents celestial bodies as close as the moon and as distant as Mars and Venus. He is a sought-after and effective communicator and believes that education, technology and scientific curiosity are essential for viable societies. He is awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Canterbury in 2003 and the William H Pickering Scholarship to Caltech for New Zealand Graduates speaks of his commitment to the sharing and application of knowledge.

1966-01-06 03:42:53

1966 – Charles Fleming relinquishes the presidency to his successor, John Miles following several years of debate about the shape of the Society

At the first AGM of the Society’s Fellowship in 1966, Sir Charles Fleming seeks to draw a line under several years of disagreement about how the Society should be run. Much more can be read about this in John E. Martin’s book Illuminating the World: 150 years of the Royal Society of New Zealand [link] but much is made of the place of member bodies and fellowship in the organisation and the overall representative nature of the Society’s governance. Fleming’s presidency sees recognition of the Society’s expanded role, which now includes the promotion and maintenance of high research standards, the recognition of excellence, as well as informing government and increasingly maintaining international linkages. The eventual new Royal Society of New Zealand Act of 1965 situates all these roles alongside the Society’s ongoing publishing efforts. Despite heavily focusing his academic work on ornithology, Fleming is far from one dimensional. While his Master’s thesis focuses on whale birds, his first job is as a geologist at the Geological Survey Branch of the DSIR. He hopes to be appointed as a palaeontologist, however, the geology role sees him mapping the new Dannevirke subdivision. Fleming joins a New Zealand Government effort to monitor hostile shipping in the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands and Campbell Island. He is away from home for 12 months and misses both the birth of his first daughter and the death of his father as a result. Upon his return, however, he is made palaeontologist at the Geological Survey and conducts extensive work on living and fossil molluscs. During the 1950s, he is part of a group that mapped the sea floor around New Zealand and its inhabitants. His personal interest in birds lead him to publish, very nearly annually, papers on birds based on private research and in the 1960s he also publishes 12 papers on cicadas off his own bat. His work sees him become a valuable proponent of the early conservation movement. Fleming serves two terms as president of the Royal Society of New Zealand and plays a critical balancing role in disagreements over its future as calls for reform grow louder in the early 1960s.

1966-01-07 03:42:53

1966 – The Society establishes a parliamentary and scientific committee and begins a series of meetings and presentations to MPs on a variety of important topics to New Zealand

The Society’s expanded role also leads to closer engagement with Parliament and MPs. In 1965, councillors Tony Collins and Brian Shorland suggest the formation of a parliamentary and scientific committee such as exists in other countries. The first such committee is established in Britain in 1939. In the early 1960s, the idea is taken up in Sweden, Austria, Belgium, France and Turkey. Collins and Shorland note that such a committee could not work if scientists propose to educate MPs. It is better to suggest scientists need educating in politics. Brian Talboys, MP, suggests that scientists give talks to interested MPs. It is agreed that discussions are held ‘in committee’ to avoid a pressure group approach. Two trial talks are given – one on nuclear fallout and one on population and food. Afterwards, meetings take place two to three times a year from six to seven in the evening during the dinner break and are usually held in the caucus room of Parliament Buildings. They encompass a variety of topical issues, incluidng high-country research, the role of a royal society, the visit of society fellows to China, a society committee report called Limits to Growth? and black holes and pollution. In 1972, the addresses for meetings held prior to that year’s election on atomic fallout, biological control of insects, forestry resources and timber production and synthetic food are printed in the Proceedings, indicating their significance to the Society. In the late 1970s, MPs’ interest declined. Only one meeting on the productivity of land is held in 1978, an election year, and attendance is low. In 1979, the Society tries to relate topics more closely to the legislative programme and to current issues such as lignite, computers and the effect of automation on the workforce. But attendance still proves an issue. Three meetings are held in 1980, but in 1981, while one meeting on an issue of immediate interest, science and democracy, proves popular, the other is cancelled. Encouraged by Ian Shearer, the Society persists with organising meetings, albeit on a more limited basis. In 1985, despite a new minister, Bob Tizard, being keen to continue, the committee is dissolved. Instead, selected MPs are invited to lunchtime meetings with visiting scientists. The Society, energised by its role in the 21st century, resurrects the programme in 2003.

1969-01-02 03:42:53

1969 – The Society sponsors the first of many annual international symposia

After several previously successful events, the Royal Society of New Zealand announces in 1969 that it will sponsor an annual international symposium. The announcement represents a formal move to engage the international research community on topics relevant to society as a whole. By the late 1980s, the Society supports nearly fifty such events on topics such as mycology (the study of fungi), dietary fibre, biology of deer production, oils, fats and waxes and the movement of the earth’s crust.

1971-01-01 03:42:53

1971 – After more than 100 years, the Society publishes all papers in the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, retiring the venerable Transactions

In the 1960s, the Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand journal falls on hard times and, by the end of the decade, faces significant financial pressure despite various attempts to make it a leaner operation. This is a perennial issue. Eventually, in 1971, the publication is abandoned – to no small degree of regret at the loss – and all future papers are published in the newly-created Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand. The new publication still maintains the appeal to a cross-disciplinary audience and establishes five categories within its pages. They are original research relevant to New Zealand and the Pacific; expedition reports and occasional lectures of a high standard and broad interest; state-of-the-art reviews on subjects of particular interest; notes and comments; and reviews of publications. At the same time, the Society’s editorial work increases in response to the need to publish more bulletins, a consequence of its numerous symposia. A numbered miscellaneous series is introduced in 1977. It covers subjects such as geology, geophysics and earthquakes and also publishes the results of the increasingly common investigations into topical issues.

1972-01-14 03:42:53

1972 – The Society finally finds a permanent home in Thorndon after decades of uncertainty

In 1972, the Society moves to buildings on four properties between Halswell and Turnbull Streets in Thorndon, but is forced to retain space at Victoria University to house the library until a purpose-built facility is funded and erected. The move follows an announcement years before by president Charles Fleming who says the Society is to seek its own headquarters. At the time, his vision is a grand one including council chambers, president’s rooms and the full library. Locations considered are in Kelburn near Victoria University, Mt Cook near the then Dominion Museum and finally in Thorndon where the Society is housed today. Once the Thorndon site is settled in 1965, the Society sets about trying to fund the construction of what would be known as Science House or Science Centre. An appeal to public and business for funding is made by Prime Minister Holyoake and Sir Francis Kitts, Mayor of Wellington, and the Society receives Lotteries funding to assist with the initial purchase of the site. Sadly, these appeals fall short of their targets due to economic conditions and the process drags into the 70s.Construction begins in 1975 on a more modest interpretation of the Science Centre with completion in 1977. The Centre gives the Society a sense of identity and quickly becomes a hub for the research community. Shortly thereafter the Society launches a further appeal to fund the construction of an extension to house a library of its own at the Thorndon headquarters. Once again the appeal fails but the Society, pressed by the University to relinquish its space, moves its administration into a Victorian house at 4 Halswell Street and accommodates the library on the ground floor. In 1983, after more than 60 years, the library returns to the same site as the Society. Further redevelopment of the site takes place from 2008. Originally, it is envisioned that a four- or five-storey building is to be constructed. The idea is to provide the Society with a more obvious and exciting space to engage with the public valued at around $31 million. Sadly, the project is pared back due to the economic conditions. The eventual design includes new conference and meeting facilities and a more modern workspace for the growing staff, the latter redeveloping the existing structure. Both sections of the building are earthquake strengthened, the engineering for which wins an award from the Society for Earthquake Engineering and Pacific Architecture wins several architectural awards for the overall design. The refurbishment is considered a huge success and, above all, is delivered within budget.

1974-01-10 03:42:53

1974 – The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries takes the first step to regulate the use of laboratory animals following advice from the Society, ultimately leading to the trans-Tasman ANZCCART

In 1974, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries establishes a permanent secretariat and central government committee to discuss the ethical use of animals in scientific research. The decision is taken following the advice of the Royal Society of New Zealand. The Royal Society of New Zealand is active in the ethical use of animals in scientific research since the 1970s. Prior to the 1980s the use of animals for scientific testing is not regulated by the Animal Protection Act in New Zealand. Identifying this legislative gap as early as 1970, the Society becomes active in facilitating a move towards consistent and ethical standards of animal use. It establishes an ad hoc committee in that year and again in 1981, seeking to survey the supply of laboratory animals and explore the care and welfare of the animals respectively. Efforts to regulate the use of animals in research continues and culminates in 1993 with the establishment of the Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART). A trans-Tasman project, ANZCCART is formed from a committee of the Royal Society of New Zealand and an Australian counterpart, which works closely with researchers, students, Animal Ethics Committees, the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC), the Ministry for Primary Industries, Universities, Crown Research Institutes and other research entities.

150 Years of Discovery

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