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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Hector, Sir James

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Hector, Sir James, K.C.M.G., M.D., F.R.S., F.R.G.S., F.L.S., F.G.S., etc., son of the late Alexander Hector, Writer to the Signet, of Edinburgh, was born in Edinburgh March 16th, 1834, and educated at Edinburgh Academy and at the University, which he entered in 1852, taking the degree of M.D. in 1856. While here he served as assistant under Professor Edward Forbes and other eminent men of science. For a short time after taking his degree, Dr. Hector acted as assistant also to Sir James Simpson; but in March 1857 he was selected by Sir Roderick Murchison, Director-General of the Geological Survey of Great Britain, to accompany the Palliser expedition to the Rocky Mountains, as surgeon and geologist. The work consumed four years, during which time the members endured many hardships and privations. Much of the region explored had been practically an unknown land previously, and the results of his expedition were embodied by Dr. Hector afterwards in a Blue Book. A leading event was the discovery by Dr. Hector of the pass by which the Canadian-Pacific Railway crosses the Rocky Mountains. Before his return he examined and reported upon the coal mines of Vancouver Island, and investigated the goldfields of British Columbia, California, and Northern Mexico. For his geographical discoveries the leader of the expedition was awarded the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1861. In that year Sir Roderick Murchison offered him the post of geologist to the Provincial Government of Otago, N.Z., which he accepted. On arriving in New Zealand he explored the mountainous lake regions of western and southern Otago, as also the sounds upon the coast. In 1864 he was appointed commissioner to make a tour of the colony and report upon its resources, with a view to an exhibition at Dunedin. In 1865 this exhibition was held, and in it Dr. Hector was one of the leading spirits. In this year, too, he was appointed director of the Geological Survey of the colony—a position he has held ever since, to the great advantage of the colony. In 1875 he visited England, and in the following year was Executive Commissioner for New Zealand at the International Exhibition at Philadelphia. He was also Executive Commissioner at the Exhibitions at Sydney in 1879, and Melbourne 1880 and 1888. For the Sydney Exhibition Dr. Hector prepared an official handbook of New Zealand, which is still the most convenient authority upon that colony. In 1860 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, of the Geological Society, and of the Royal Geographical Society. In 1866 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society (London), Fellow of the Linnæan Society, of the Zoological Society, and of the Statistical and Mineralogical Society. He is also a corresponding member of numerous learned societies on the Continent and in America. He received the Lyell medal of the Geological Society in 1876 and the Royal Founders' medal from the Royal Geographical Society in 1891. In 1874 he received the Order of the Golden Cross from the Emperor of Germany. Sir James Hector is Director of the Colonial Museum, Laboratory, Observatory, and the Botanic Gardens. He was chief founder, and is now Director, of the New Zealand Institute, and is Chancellor of the University of New Zealand. He was created C.M.G. in 1875, and K.C.M.G. in 1887. Sir James Hector married, in 1868, the eldest daughter of the late Sir David Monro, M.D.