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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 1 (April 1, 1937)


Lord Bledisloe is foremost among those lovers of the New Zealand primitive vegetation who profoundly appreciate the value of the scientific work of the late Dr. Leonard Cockayne. In a notable address, published in his “Ideals of Nationhood,” he described Cockayne as the greatest of the Empire's botanists. Another eminent man in the scientific world, Professor Tansley, wrote that “Leonard Cockayne played the most conspicuous and important part in the development of modern field botany during the first third of the twentieth century. He showed what field botany could become in the hands of a man with the right endowments. Not only could it give us a really adequate scientific picture of natural vegetation, but it could also be most effectively applied to the utilitarian purposes of forestry, pastoralism and reclamation of lands. Cockayne's vigorous indefatigable personality, combined as it was with complete sincerity of mind, wide outlook, and the particularly acute powers of observation and memory that make the born field naturalist, were devoted to a flora and vegetation of great richness and unique interest at a time when it was largely unspoiled by human interference.” His distinction happily was well recognised before he died, and the many publications he gave to the world are his enduring memorial.

Dr. Leonard Cockayne, C.M.G., Ph.D., Hon. D.Sc., F.R.S (1855–1934).

Dr. Leonard Cockayne, C.M.G., Ph.D., Hon. D.Sc., F.R.S (1855–1934).

Teonard Cockayne was an Englishman whose quick, keen brain early turned to the study of wild nature, and who was fortunately able from his boyhood to engage in the botanical research that developed into the great and all-absorbing love of his existence. He was born at Thorpe House, Norton Lees, Derbyshire, on April 7th, 1855. His father, Mr. William Cockayne, was a merchant. Reared in conditions that made him acquainted with the beauties of nature, his childhood life was a fitting preparation for the pursuits that came to dominate his career. He lived much in the out-of-doors; he was in the midst of gardens and trees. He was educated chiefly at Wesley College, in Sheffield, and he spent two years at a Manchester College with the idea of becoming a doctor. He studied chemistry and botany, but did not take a degree or carry out his youthful desire to be a doctor. His intentions were not very clearly defined at that early stage; it was his migration to New Zealand in 1880—he had an uncle here—that opened up to him interests in the study of wild life that shaped and matured his scientific tastes.