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Last updated: 10 September 2009

Hector, James, Sir

Collection | Ref # ARC-0008 | Held by Hocken Collections - Uare Taoka o Hakena

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Hector, James, Sir


Hector, James, Sir, 1834-1907

Level of description:



2.00 linear metres

Reference number:



James Hector was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 16 March 1834, the son of Alexander Hector and his wife Margaret Macrosty. On 30 December 1868 he married Maria Georgina Monro in Nelson, New Zealand. They had three sons and three daughters.

Hector graduated in medicine from the University of Edinburgh in 1856. Having apparently gained some training in geology, he was recommended in 1857 for the position of surgeon and geologist on John Palliser's expedition to western Canada. On this expedition, Hector established a reputation as a field geologist, natural historian and explorer.

In 1861 Hector was appointed director of the Geological Survey of Otago, New Zealand. By 1862 he had explored the eastern areas of Otago and visited Central Otago. During 1863 he explored the West Coast, carrying out a double crossing between Milford Sound and Dunedin.

In 1865 Hector was appointed Director of the Geological Survey and Colonial Museum in Wellington. In 1867 the museum was amalgamated into an institute designed to encourage the spread of scientific knowledge. Hector managed the New Zealand Institute, which later became known as the Royal Society of New Zealand, until 1903.

Hector was also involved with the Colonial and Wellington Time-ball Observatories, the Botanic Garden of Wellington, and the Meteorological Department, since he was personally interested in building up meteorological statistics. He also wrote 45 scientific papers, which were published in the 'Transactions' of the New Zealand Institute, as well as encouraging the publication of catalogues, manuals and handbooks by the Colonial Museum.

Government reforms in the 1890s left Hector with greatly reduced staff and budget. In 1903 he took leave of absence and travelled to Canada to accept offial appreciation of his work on the Palliser expedition. He returned to New Zealand in 1904 following the sudden death of his son in Canada.

Hector was elected President of the New Zealand Institute in 1906. He died at Lower Hutt on 6 November 1907.

Scope and contents:

The collection includes Hector's notebooks, correspondence, papers relating to the Palliser Expedition, personal papers, and miscellaneous scientific papers.

Dates covered:

Circa 1845 - 1934

Access conditions:

Not restricted.

Finding aids:

Listed on the 'Hakena' archives and manuscripts catalogue.

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Associated with:


Otago Region · Canada


Scientific expeditions

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