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THE LATE DR PARKER., Issue 10468, 11 November 1897
THE LATE DR PARKER.
[By One Who Knew Him ] Thomas Jeffrey Parker, D.So , Lend., F.R.S., was born in London in 1850. He may be said to have inherited a taste for biological study, since his father, the late Dr W. Kitchen Parker, was a gold medallist of the Royal Society, and one of the most di tinguished biologists of his day. Thomas Parker graduated as B So. of London University, that most exacting of all English institutions - his “ dura mnter,” as, when in a jocular moo-1, he was wont to call her. Scon after graduating he was aopointed demonstrator to the late Professor Huxley, who regarded young Parker as one of the ablest men be had ever trained. When by the resignation of Professor Hutton the Chair of Biology in the University of Otago became vacant in 1879 Professor Parker was chosen as his successor, and in carrying out the duties of the position he has ever since done the greatest honor to our University and to the colony of New Zealand. The tare types of animal life to be studied in our colony had no doubt many attractions for the enthusiastic biologist, and the expectation of working in wlat was practically virgin ground must have influenced Professor Parker in choosing the post. The division of biology to the advancement of which Dr Parker’s original work was chiefly directed was tint of animal morphology; indeed, be has been referred tor by °a h ; gh one of the founders of this branch of the science, A catalogue of the numerous papers that he has contributed to various scientific journals, chiefly on problems in animal morphology, would be out of place in this notice. It is sufficient to note that all are marked by the highest ability, by great dearness, and by dose atte-tion to details. W e mav refer briefly to his celebrated monograph on ‘The Anatomy and Development of Apteryx,’ published by the Royal Society in 1891. If he had written only this one work it would have entitled him to rank amorg the foremost scientists of his generation. One naturally looks for only the best in the ‘Journal of the Royal Society,’ but it is admitted by those competent to judge that no paper published by this society for many vears has anpreached Dr Parker’s either in comp’eteness of detail, in admirable arrangement, or in the beauty and artistic merit of its illustrations. He has made two important contributions to what may be called the “ text-book literature” of biology. Parker’s ‘Zootomy,’ which appeared in 1884, broke new ground, so far at least as an English author is concerned, and this text book is already a classic in the subject, having met with the very highest praise in Great Britain, in America, and on the Continent. His ‘ Lessons in Elementary Biology,’ which appeared in 1893, red ct iheadmirablemethods and clear, forcible style of the author, and are acknowledged on all hands to be the best introduction to the subject yet written, Even after
be became aware o£ the serious nature ot the disease to which he fell a victim his industry never relaxed, and for several years past he has been engaged along with Dr Haswell, of Sydney University, in preparing a comprehensive treatise on zoology suitable for advanced students, and embodying the latest results of scientific research. I had the pleasure of seeing the MS. and illustrations of this work at various stages, and - if the printer and engraver have done justice to the writes t-.vo colonial authors should suoe; ed in doing for biology what Koscoe and Scborlemmer did for obemisiry, by producing n text book in Knglish that will outrival the translations of the best itinental works on the subject. While thus keeping abreast o: the latest scientific thought of Furope, Professor Parker always took the keenest interest in any scientific work that lay close at hand. He has fer years been the mainstay of the Otago Institute, while his work as curator of the local University museum has been invaluable. His passion for orderly scientific arrangement is seen in every corner of the vatious collections, and anyone wishing for an object lesson as to what may be done by means of admirable arrangement and terse explanation, in making a dry subject interesting even with scanty material, need on'y glance at the collection of fossils lately arranged for the teaching of paleontology on the second floor facing King street.. One branch of the museum work in which the professor took the g ea'est pride, and in which, thanks to the assistance of Mr E. Jennings, the local museum stands easily first, was the preparation and preservation of cartilaginous skeletons of certain fishes. The spec’mens, mounted on glass, of vatious fishes of this kind are a monument ot the skill and patience of the late professor and his assistant, Mr Jennings. Though necessarily a specialist in the best sense of the word, and though p-ofessing an intimate knowledgeof only one subject, Dr Parker was a man of wide culture and fine literary taste. Unlike his great master Huxley, whose memory he held in the greatest reveieme, he made few contributions to “popular” science, but the charm of his manner on the rare occasions when he lectured iu public made his bearers wish that he had had more leisure for this kind of work. Members of the Otago University Debiting Society who were privileged to listen to his address on the functions cf a university, delivero i some few years ago, will not soon forget the lofty ideal ot work that ho set before them, or the fine vein of humor that ran through the whole of his speech. It is, however, as a teacher that Dr Park r will be most kindly remembered by the great number of University men who have passed through his classes. His students instantly recognised that he was a born teacher, and, speaking for myself, the memory cf the time spent in his classes is one of the pleasantest memories of my University com se. "Wo were, I remember, for the most part junior students, many of us in the first year of our medical course, and not inclined to take too seriously even the fads of biologictl science; but, the lesson once begun, the quiet, earnest manner of our instructor, the extraordinary pains he took to dear up difficulties, and his wonderful power of illustration, commanded the attention of the least thoughtful. The most irresponsible freshman was compelled to take some interest in a subject when he found that a man whom ho could not but admiro and respect spared no pains to make him unde-stand that subject Deftly woven through all bis illustrations, binding together what under an inferior teacher might have seemed to be a mere mass of dry details, ran like silken threads the two great principles cf the universality of law and the gradual upward evolution of organised life. So admirable was his arrangement of the work, and so carefully were his students fed on from point to point, that the dullest undergraduate must surely have got a glimmering of these two great generalisations, while in the case of the brighter minds to meet such a teacher was little abort of an inspiration. Those who were privileged t.) know him well feel that by the comparatively early death of Dr Parker the University of Otago and the community'have lost a man whose place will not easily be filled. At the same time we cannot forget that he has left with us an example of devotion to duty, of absolute sincerity and reverence in the search for truth, of gentle courtesy and tiue kindness of heait, that must have influenced for good all those wiih whom he has been brought into contact during his lung and honorab'e career iu the University of Otago.
THE LATE DR PARKER., Issue 10468, 11 November 1897
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