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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 6 (September 2, 1935)


Many explorers and men of science have left their mark on New Zealand. The master hand of all, the foremost and most persistent and enthusiastic in the pursuit of knowledge of the country and its hidden wonders and treasures was that distinguished German-born colonist Sir Julius von Haast. Not only was he a courageous and persevering explorer, who specialised in geology, but he became a leader in the cause of higher education. He was the first advocate of the study of physical science as an indispensable part of advanced education in New Zealand. He founded, and for many years presided over the Canterbury Philosophical Institute, and with Bishop Harper founded the Christchurch Collegiate Union, which developed into Canterbury University College. Christchurch was his home and the Canterbury Museum, which he founded and enriched, is a noble monument to his career and achievements. He was an eloquent speaker and as eloquent a writer, and his reports on the geology and landscapes of the South Island are admirable for their scientific thoroughness and for their graphic and vivid descriptions of the alpine and forest country which he explored under the most arduous conditions.

Sir Julius Von Haast, K.C.M.G., Ph.D., F.R.S., F.G.S. (Horn 1st May, 1822; died 16th August, 1887).

Sir Julius Von Haast, K.C.M.G., Ph.D., F.R.S., F.G.S. (Horn 1st May, 1822; died 16th August, 1887).

Two great names of foreign-born scientists are linked together in an early-days' exploring association in New Zealand. Science knows no frontiers, and it is to learned men of the Continent of Europe that we have reason to be grateful for much pioneering data concerning this British Colony. One man of note whose observations on the physical characteristics and the people of New Zealand nearly three-quarters of a century ago still stand as reliable and authoritative was Dr. Ferdinand von Hochstetter, the geologist. A friend and professional colleague of Hochstetter was Julius von Haast. Hochstetter soon returned to Europe; von Haast remained to become a naturalised British citizen, a valuable settler, and a great scientific benefactor of his fellow-colonists.

It was within a day of each other, in December, 1858, that Hochstetter and Haast set foot on New Zealand's shores. They were then unknown to one another, but they soon met and became friends and travelling comrades, and their friendship lasted until death. Dr. von Hochstetter had come out as geologist in the Austrian warship “Novara,” cruising round the world, an expedition which led to the formation of many links of interest between the colony and Vienna.