Mineralogical reference set, circa 1857
Made by James Gregory, London
wooden box with removable wooden trays holding individual paper boxes with samples and handwritten paper labels
298 x 515 x 335 mm
Purchased 2001 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds

Mineralogical reference set

Since the early 1700s, Scots thinkers were noted for their desire to study and understand the natural world. It is no surprise that Scots migrants like James Hector, owner of this mineralogical reference set, were at the forefront of scientific research in New Zealand.

Hector (1834-1907) was born in Edinburgh. In 1856 he graduated in medicine from the University of Edinburgh, where he also studied botany, zoology, and geology. For three years he worked as a surgeon and geologist on an expedition in western Canada before he arrived in New Zealand in 1862.

During the 1860s, Hector explored the terrain of Otago and the West Coast, using this collection of rocks and minerals to identify specimens and gather information about the region's geology. By 1865 he was the director of both the Geological Survey and the Colonial Museum (a forerunner of Te Papa). He was never just a desk man, however, and spent his summers working in the field.

This immensely influential - and sometimes controversial - Scot became responsible for many scientific organisations, including what became the Royal Society of New Zealand. For this work, Hector received national and international awards, including a knighthood in 1887.