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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Johnston, Robert Mackenzie

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Johnston, Robert Mackenzie, F.L.S., son of Lachlan Johnston, was born at Petty, near Inverness, in the north Highlands of Scotland, on Nov. 27th, 1844. His earlier years were spent in the railway service in Scotland. He received the greater part of his scientific education in the Andersonian University, Glasgow, where he studied botany, geology, and chemistry, under Professors Kennedy, Crosskey, and Penny. In 1870 Mr. Johnston emigrated to Australia, and in the same year was engaged by the Tasmanian Government Railway Commissioners to initiate a system of accounts and audit for the Launceston and Western Railway. He was head of the account and audit department of Government railways from 1872 to 1881, when he was transferred to the Auditor-General's department as chief clerk. In the same year he was selected by the Government to organise a new statistical department, and received the appointment of Government Statistician and Registrar-General for Tasmania. Mr. Johnston is the author of the "Tasmanian Official Record," published annually since 1890 by the Government. This work, which is a cyclopedia of information relating to the colony, has received high praise from competent authorities for its completeness and scientific method. He has also contributed to the Royal Society of Tasmania various papers on statistical and economic questions. In addition to his work as a statistician, Mr. Johnston has made important additions to the knowledge of the geology and natural history of Tasmania. He has published the result of his painstaking original observations, extending over twenty years, in a series of contributions to the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania (1881 to 1891), dealing chiefly with palaeontology, stratigraphical geology, and the sister sciences of zoology and botany. He is also the author of "Field Memoranda for Tasmanian Botanists" (Launceston, 1874), and "Descriptive Catalogue of Tasmanian Fishes" (Hobart, 1882). It is, however, by his "Systematic Account of the Geology of Tasmania" (Hobart, 1888), that Mr. Johnston is most widely known. This elaborate work was published at the cost of the Tasmanian Government, at whose request it was prepared. Mr. Johnston is a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, of the Royal and Linnean Societies of New South Wales, and of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia. He is a member of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, and was chosen President of the Economic Section at the meeting of the last-named society held in Melbourne in 1890.