Frederick Hutton (scientist)

Captain Frederick Wollaston Hutton FRS (16 November 1836 – 27 October 1905) was an English-New Zealand scientist who applied the theory of natural selection to explain the origins and nature of the natural history of New Zealand. An army officer in early life, he then had an academic career in geology and biology. He became one of the most able and prolific nineteenth century naturalists of New Zealand.

Frederick Hutton

Frederick Wollaston Hutton.gif
Frederick Wollaston Hutton

16 November 1836
Died27 October 1905
Died at sea
Resting placeBuried at sea off Cape Town, South Africa
AwardsFellow of the Royal Society (1892), Clarke Medal (1891)
Scientific career
InstitutionsColonial Museum, Wellington (1871–1873); Otago Museum, Dunedin (1874–1879); and the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch (1887–1905)


Plaque to Hutton in ChristChurch Cathedral

Hutton was born in Gate Burton, Lincolnshire, England, the son of the Rev. Henry Frederick Hutton and his wife Louisa Wollaston, daughter of the Rev. Henry John Wollaston.[1] He passed through Southwell grammar school and the Naval Academy at Gosport, Hampshire. He studied applied science at King's College London before being commissioned in the Royal Welch Fusiliers and fighting in the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny.[2]

Hutton returned to England in 1860, and continued to study geology at Sandhurst, being elected to the Geological Society of London in the same year. Hutton married in 1863, and resigned his commission in 1866 to travel with his wife and two children to New Zealand, where four more children would follow. They lived initially in Waikato, where Hutton tried his hand at flax milling, but he soon changed back to geology, joining the Geological Survey of New Zealand in 1866 and becoming Provincial Geologist of Otago in 1874. At the same time, he was made lecturer in geology at the University of Otago and curator of the museum there.[3] Hutton became professor of biology at Canterbury College in 1880, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1892.[4] The following year, he also took on the curatorship of the Canterbury Museum. Towards the end of his life, Hutton was made president of the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union. He was awarded the Clarke Medal by the Royal Society of New South Wales in 1891. He was the first President of the New Zealand Institute (which later became the Royal Society of New Zealand), from 1904 to his death in 1905; he was followed by Sir James Hector.[5] He was one of the inaugural vice-chairmen of the New Zealand Alpine Club, which was founded in July 1891.[6]

He worked successively at the Colonial Museum, Wellington (1871–1873) (now called Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand); Otago Museum, Dunedin (1874–1879);[7] and the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch (1887–1905).

Hutton died on the return voyage on the SS Rimutaka from England on 27 October 1905, and was buried at sea off Cape Town, South Africa.[8] He is commemorated in the Hutton Memorial Medal and Research Fund, awarded for scientific works bearing on the zoology, botany or geology of New Zealand. Hutton's shearwater (Puffinus huttoni), a sea bird, was named after him and the cave wētā Neonetus huttoni.


In 1860, he wrote a supportive review of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species for the journal, The Geologist.[9] In 1861, he wrote an article defending Darwinism in the same journal.[10] Hutton defended Darwin from the objections of creationist Adam Sedgwick, which he described as "gross ironical misrepresentations". He wrote that creationism was a "mere assertion, an evasion of the question, a cloak for ignorance."[9]

Throughout his life, Hutton remained a staunch exponent of Darwin's theories of natural selection, and Darwin himself expressed his appreciation in a letter to Hutton.[9]


Taxa described and named by Hutton include:

Hutton's publicationsEdit


Hutton married in 1863 Annie Gouger Montgomerie, daughter of William Montgomerie and his wife Elizabeth Graham.[1] Their children included Gilbert Montgomerie Hutton (1865–1911) of the Royal Engineers.[11]


  1. ^ a b Mason, Alan. "Hutton, Frederick Wollaston (1836–1905)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/34079. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ Parton, H. N. "Hutton, Frederick Wollaston". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
  3. ^ Crane, Rosi (13 May 2020). "What were they thinking? Tracing evolution in the Otago Museum, 1868–1936". Museum History Journal. 13: 61–79. doi:10.1080/19369816.2020.1759005. ISSN 1936-9816. S2CID 219420657.
  4. ^ "The Royal Society – Fellow details". The Royal Society. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  5. ^ "Royal Society Te Aparangi – Presidents". Royal Society of New Zealand. 2017. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  6. ^ "Alpine Club". Lyttelton Times. Vol. LXXVI, no. 9478. 29 July 1891. p. 3. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  7. ^ Hutton, F.W. (1874). "Otago Museum". Appendix to Votes & Proceedings of the Otago Provincial Council. Session XXXIII. 1874: 79.
  8. ^ Jenkinson, Sidney Hartley (1940). "New Zealanders and Science, 6 — Hutton". Archived from the original on 23 December 2019. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  9. ^ a b c Stenhouse, John. (1990). Darwin's Captain: F. W. Hutton and the Nineteenth-Century Darwinian Debates. Journal of the History of Biology 23 (3): 411–442.
  10. ^ Hutton, Frederick Wollaston (1861). "Some remarks on Mr. Darwin's theory". The Geologist. 4 (4): 132–136. doi:10.1017/S1359465600004597. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  11. ^ "Hutton, Major Gilbert Montgomerie". Who's Who. A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

External linksEdit

Preceded by Clarke Medal
Succeeded by