Fison, Lorimer (DNB12)
FISON, LORIMER (1832–1907), Wesleyan missionary and anthropologist, born on 9 Nov. 1832, was thirteenth child, in a family of twenty, of Thomas Fison of Bamingham, Suffolk. His mother was a daughter of the Rev. John Re3molds, whose translations of Fenelon, Massillon, and Bourdaloue achieved some popularity. After education at Sheffield he matriculated as a pensioner from Caius College, Cambridge, on 27 June 1855. He studied mathematics under Robert Potts [q. v.], the editor of Euclid, whose second wife was Fison's sister, but left the university at the end of his second term after a boyish escapade, and sailed for Australia in search of gold. Coming under religious influence there, he joined at Melbourne the Wesleyan communion. In 1863 he was ordained a Wesleyan minister, and was almost immediately after sent to Fiji as a missionary. He served there for a first period of eight years, till 1871, winning the confidence of natives and Europeans.
While in Fiji Fison got into unusually close touch with the natives, and became much interested in the subject of family relationships. The publication of Lewis Morgan's 'Systems of Consanguinity' (1871) stimulated his interest and he met Alfred William Howitt [q. v. Suppl. II], who had been for very many years working at the same subject in Australia. Fison spent the years 1871-5 in New South Wales and "Victoria, combining ministerial labour with anthropological research. Thenceforward the names of Fison and Hewitt were associated as fellow-workers [see under Howitt, Alfred William, Suppl. II]. In 1875 he returned to Fiji, and remained there till 1884. During this period he was principal of the institution at Navuloa for the training of natives as teachers. Fison wrote a remarkable paper on the little understood subject of Fijian land tenure. Its substance was first published in the 'Journal of the Anthropological Institute' in 1881. It was reprinted in pamphlet form by the Fiji government press in 1903. Apart from this work and his collaboration with Howitt in 'Kamilaroi and Kumai' (1880), he wrote in the 'Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute' on Fijian antiquities (1881-95).
In 1884 Fison on returning to Australia engaged till 1888 in ministerial work at Hawthorn and at Flemmington in Victoria. In 1888 he settled at Melbourne and from that year to 1905 he edited the Melbourne 'Spectator,' a Wesleyan periodical. He also helped to found the (Wesleyan) Queen's College in Melbourne University and was active in its management.
In 1892 he was president of the anthropological section of the Australian Advancement of Science meeting at Hobart Town. In 1894 he attended the meeting of the British Association at Oxford, when the results of his scientific research into the organisation of Australian tribes received full recognition. Of brilliant gifts as a linguist Lorimer excelled in conversation and greatly impressed scholarly society in England. After his return to Australia his health soon compelled absolute repose. But in 1904 he published 'Tales from Old Fiji,' which — partly perhaps because of a natural hesitation to publish for general information all that he knew about Fijian mythology — is the least valuable of his contributions to scientific anthropology. In 1905 he was awarded a civil list pension of 1501. He died at a house which he had built at Essenden, Victoria, on 29 Dec. 1907. His widow survived him with two sons and four daughters.
[Fison's writings; Johns' Notable Australians, 1908 ; J. G. Frazer's Howitt and Fison, in Folldore, June 1909, p. 144 seq. ; The Victorian Naturalist, vol. xxiv. April 1908 ; AustraHan Methodist Missionary Review, Sydney, 4 Feb. 1908 (by Dr. George Brown).]