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.

150 Years of Discovery

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