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Sir David Hutchins (1850–1920)

from Australian Forestry Journal

By the death of Sir David Hutchins, which took place at Wellington, New Zealand, on the 11th November, modern scientific forestry has lost one of its greatest exponents. Sir David’s professional life was singularly rich in opportunity and variety, and he has left his mark on the forests of many countries separated by a hemisphere. Sir David, who at the time of his decease had reached the allotted span of three score years and ten, received his professional education at the famous École Nationale des Eaux et Forêts, at Nancy, France. From there he proceeded to India, where he joined the Indian Forest Service, retiring after years of work which stamped him as a forester of outstanding qualities. From India he proceeded to South Africa, becoming Conservator of Forests in Cape Colony, a position from which he retired after holding the appointment for some thirty years. To him the Cape is indebted for its fine forests of eucalypts, now rapidly maturing, and yielding to-day a revenue to the Cape Colony of something like £20,000 per annum. From the Cape he proceeded to British East Africa, where he was Conservator of Forests for a number of years, and here, too, he introduced the growing of the Australian eucalypt. In retiring from the East African appointment Sir David, whose reputation as a forester of unusual capacity was known throughout the Empire, undertook quite a number of engagements as consulting forester, advising Governments and Administrations in various parts of the British Empire. His report on the forests of Cyprus and the prospects that modern scientific forestry had in an island, once rich in timber, but long denuded of its forest wealth, determined the future forest conditions in that possession. His recommendations have been almost wholly accepted, and the work that he outlined is now being rapidly pushed on. Here, too, he recommended the introduction of the eucalypt.

Sir David had a high estimate indeed of the value of the eucalypt as a forest tree, and, strange as it may seem, during all the years that he had been recommending it in various parts of the Empire he had never seen a mature eucalypt until five years ago, when he visited Australia. He spent a considerable time in Western Australia examining its forests, and in the Eastern States he was equally diligent, and the result of his labours in Australia has found expression in the very valuable monograph, A Discussion of Australian Forestry, with Special Reference to the Forests of Western Australia. It may be asserted with truth that the Forests Department of Western Australia to-day, re-organised and under scientific direction, owes its inception to Sir David Hutchins. Leaving Australia, he went to New Zealand, and, at the invitation of the Government of the Dominion, prepared an exhaustive report dealing with the forests of that country, and recommending extensive schemes of planting and regeneration. The result of his work in the Dominion was the passing, two years ago, of a Forests Act, and the organisation of a Forests Department, which is now hard at work giving effect to the policy laid down by Sir David. He also published two volumes dealing in detail with forestry matters as they affected New Zealand. To his high qualities as a forester Sir David added a wide range of sympathy, and his loss will be deplored by many besides those who are called upon to administer forest affairs throughout the Empire.

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Citation details

'Hutchins, Sir David (1850–1920)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 24 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


22 September, 1850


11 November, 1920 (aged 70)
Wellington, New Zealand

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.