Archibald Menzies

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Archibald Menzies

Archibald Menzies ( /ˈmɪŋɪs/ MING-iss; 15 March 1754 – 15 February 1842) was a Scottish surgeon, botanist and naturalist. He spent many years at sea, serving with the Royal Navy, private merchants, and the Vancouver Expedition. He was the first recorded European to reach the summit of the Hawaiian volcano Mauna Loa and introduced the Monkey Puzzle tree to England.

Surgeon physician with surgical specialty

In modern medicine, a surgeon is a physician who performs surgical operations. There are also surgeons in podiatry, dentistry maxillofacial surgeon and the veterinary fields.

Natural history Study of organisms including plants or animals in their environment

Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms including animals, fungi and plants in their environment; leaning more towards observational than experimental methods of study. A person who studies natural history is called a naturalist or natural historian.


Life and career

Menzies was born at Easter Stix (or Styx) in the parish of Weem, in Perthshire, Scotland. [1] While working with his elder brother William at the Royal Botanic Gardens, he drew the attention of Dr John Hope, professor of botany at Edinburgh University, who encouraged him to study medicine there. Having qualified as a surgeon, Menzies served as assistant to a doctor in Caernarvon, Wales, then joined the Royal Navy as assistant surgeon on HMS Nonsuch. [2] Present at Battle of the Saintes (12 April 1782), in peacetime Menzies served on Halifax Station in Nova Scotia. [3]

Weem village in the United Kingdom

Weem is a village on the B846 near Aberfeldy in Perthshire, Scotland. The name Weem is derived from the Gaelic uamh, meaning 'cave'.

Perthshire registration county in central Scotland

Perthshire, officially the County of Perth, is a historic county and registration county in central Scotland. Geographically it extends from Strathmore in the east, to the Pass of Drumochter in the north, Rannoch Moor and Ben Lui in the west, and Aberfoyle in the south; its borders the counties of Inverness-shire and Aberdeenshire to the north, Angus to the east, Fife, Kinross-shire, Clackmannanshire, Stirlingshire and Dunbartonshire to the south and Argyllshire to the west. It was a local government county from 1890 to 1930.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh botanical garden in Edinburgh, Scotland

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) is a scientific centre for the study of plants, their diversity and conservation, as well as a popular tourist attraction. Founded in 1670 as a physic garden to grow medicinal plants, today it occupies four sites across Scotland—Edinburgh, Dawyck, Logan and Benmore—each with its own specialist collection. The RBGE's living collection consists of more than 13,302 plant species, whilst the herbarium contains in excess of 3 million preserved specimens.

In 1786 Menzies was appointed surgeon on board the Prince of Wales (Captain James Colnett), on a fur-trading voyage round Cape Horn to the northern Pacific. [3] This ship, in company of Princess Royal (Captain Duncan), visited North America, China, and Hawaii (the Sandwich Isles) several times; Menzies collected a number of new plants on this voyage, and also ensured that none of the crew died of illness. [4] Menzies returned to Great Britain in 1789. He was elected a fellow of the Linnean Society in 1790. [3]

James Colnett was an officer of the British Royal Navy, an explorer, and a maritime fur trader. He served under James Cook during Cook's second voyage of exploration. Later he led two private trading expeditions that involved collecting sea otter pelts in the Pacific Northwest of North America and selling them in Canton, China, where the British East India Company maintained a trading post. Wintering in the recently discovered Hawaiian Islands was a key component of the new trade system. Colnett is remembered largely for his involvement in the Nootka Crisis of 1789—initially a dispute between British traders and the Spanish Navy over the use of Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island that became an international crisis that led Britain and Spain to the brink of war before being peacefully resolved through diplomacy and the signing of the Nootka Conventions.

Cape Horn Headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago located in Chile

Cape Horn is the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago of southern Chile, and is located on the small Hornos Island. Although not the most southerly point of South America, Cape Horn marks the northern boundary of the Drake Passage and marks where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet.

Princess Royal was a British merchant ship that sailed on fur trading ventures in the late 1780s, and was captured at Nootka Sound by Esteban José Martínez of Spain during the Nootka Crisis of 1789. Called Princesa Real while under the Spanish Navy, the vessel was one of the important issues of negotiation during the first Nootka Convention and the difficulties in carrying out the agreements. The vessel also played an important role in both British and Spanish exploration of the Pacific Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. In 1790, while under Spanish control, Princesa Real carried out the first detailed examination of the Strait of Juan de Fuca by non-indigenous peoples, finding, among other places, the San Juan Islands, Haro Strait, Esquimalt Harbour near present-day Victoria, British Columbia, and Admiralty Inlet.

In 1790, Menzies was appointed as naturalist to accompany Captain George Vancouver on his voyage around the world on HMS Discovery. When the surgeon fell ill, Menzies took over his duties. [5] [6]

George Vancouver 18th-century English naval explorer

Captain George Vancouver was a British officer of the Royal Navy best known for his 1791–95 expedition, which explored and charted North America's northwestern Pacific Coast regions, including the coasts of what are now the American states of Alaska, Washington, and Oregon, as well as the province of British Columbia in Canada. He also explored the Hawaiian Islands and the southwest coast of Australia.

The Vancouver Expedition (1791–1795) was a four-and-a-half-year voyage of exploration and diplomacy, commanded by Captain George Vancouver of the Royal Navy. The British expedition circumnavigated the globe and made contact with five continents. The expedition at various times included between two and four vessels, and up to 153 men, all but six of whom returned home safely.

HMS <i>Discovery</i> (1789) ship

HMS Discovery was a Royal Navy ship launched in 1789 and best known as the lead ship in George Vancouver's exploration of the west coast of North America in his famous 1791-1795 expedition. She was converted to a bomb vessel in 1798 and participated in the Battle of Copenhagen. Thereafter she served as a hospital ship and later as a convict ship until 1831. She was broken up in 1834.

The remote summit of Mokuaweoweo Mokuaweoweo from the air.gif
The remote summit of Mokuaweoweo

In 1794, while Discovery spent one of three winters in Hawaii, Menzies, with Lieutenant Joseph Baker and two other men, made the first recorded ascent to Mokuaweoweo, the summit of Mauna Loa. Menzies used a portable barometer to measure the height of the mountain as 13,564 feet (4,134 m) compared to its currently known height of 13,679 feet (4,169 m). [7]

Hawaii State of the United States of America

Hawaii is the 50th and most recent state to have joined the United States, having received statehood on August 21, 1959. Hawaii is the only U.S. state geographically located in Oceania, although it is governed as a part of North America, and the only one composed entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean.

Mauna Loa Volcano on the island of Hawaii in Hawaii, United States

Mauna Loa is one of five volcanoes that form the Island of Hawaii in the U.S. state of Hawaiʻi in the Pacific Ocean. The largest subaerial volcano in both mass and volume, Mauna Loa has historically been considered the largest volcano on Earth, dwarfed only by Tamu Massif. It is an active shield volcano with relatively gentle slopes, with a volume estimated at approximately 18,000 cubic miles (75,000 km3), although its peak is about 125 feet (38 m) lower than that of its neighbor, Mauna Kea. Lava eruptions from Mauna Loa are silica-poor and very fluid, and they tend to be non-explosive.

A barometer is a scientific instrument that is used to measure air pressure in a certain environment. Pressure tendency can forecast short term changes in the weather. Many measurements of air pressure are used within surface weather analysis to help find surface troughs, pressure systems and frontal boundaries.

It would be forty years before another European, fellow Scotsman David Douglas, would reach the summit on 29 January 1834. [5]

David Douglas (botanist) British botanist

David Douglas was a Scottish botanist, best known as the namesake of the Douglas-fir. He worked as a gardener, and explored the Scottish Highlands, North America, and Hawaii, where he died.

In 1795, Menzies was served the seeds of the Chile Pine, Araucaria araucana , as a dessert while dining with the Viceroy of Chile. He was able to pop some seeds into his pocket and grow them on board ship on the way back to Europe, and returned to England with five healthy plants, the first seen in Britain. [8] Known as the Monkey Puzzle tree, the Chile Pine became a favourite in most formal gardens of the nineteenth century.

After the voyage, Menzies served with the Navy in the West Indies. He received the degree of M.D. at the University of Aberdeen in 1799. After retiring from the Navy he became a doctor and surgeon at Notting Hill, London. [3] He became the father of the Linnean Society upon the death of Aylmer Bourke Lambert. [9]

Menzies's wife died in 1837. They had no children. Menzies himself died in London on 15 February 1842 and is buried in Kensal Green cemetery. [9]


Menzies' name is commemorated in the scientific names of several of the plants he discovered, including Menziesia , a genus of shrubs in the Ericaceae, and the Douglas fir Pseudotsuga menziesii, the most commercially important tree in western North America. [10] The Pacific madrone, an evergreen tree and largest of the Ericaceae, was named Arbutus menziesii in his honour by Friedrich Pursh.

Also named for Menzies, in a corrupted form as adapted by the Nuxalk people of the Bella Coola area of the Central Coast of British Columbia, is "Bensins Island", as recorded by Alexander Mackenzie during his visit there shortly after Vancouver's ship visited the area. [11]

The Ainapo Trail he used to climb Mauna Loa is also known as "Menzies Trail". [12] One of the principal streets surrounding the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia in Victoria, British Columbia is named Menzies street.

Many of the specimens collected by Menzies are planted in London's Kew Gardens. He also brought back to London 112 separate collections of artefacts, which are housed at the British Museum. A comprehensive catalogue of these collections was not published until 1951. [13]

The standard author abbreviation Menzies is used to indicate this person as the author when citing a botanical name. [14]

See also

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  1. Birth (or Baptism) Record held in the General Registers of Scotland, 1754 Births in the Parish of Weem in the County of Perth, Reference 398/0010 0104
  2. Linnean Society of London (1849). Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London. pp. 139–140. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Stearn, William T. (1988). "MENZIES, ARCHIBALD". Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. University of Toronto. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  4. Galois, Robert (2004). Voyage to the Northwest Side of America: The Journals of James Colnett, 1786-89. University of British Columbia (UBC) Press. p. 10. ISBN   978-0-7748-0855-2.
  5. 1 2 Archibald Menzies (1920). William Frederick Wilson (ed.). Hawaii Nei 128 Years Ago:Journal of Archibald Menzies, kept during his three visits to the Sandwich or Hawaiian Islands in the years 1792-1794. s.n. Retrieved 12 January 2008.
  6. Naish, John (1996). The Interwoven Lives of George Vancouver, Archibald Menzies, Joseph Whidbey and Peter Puget: The Vancouver Voyage of 1791–1795. The Edward Mellen Press, Ltd. ISBN   0-7734-8857-X.
  7. Walther M. Barnard (1991). "Earliest Ascents of Mauna Loa Volcano, Hawai'i" (PDF). Hawaiian Journal of History. Hawaiian Historical Society, Honolulu. 25. hdl:10524/599.
  8. "Monkey Puzzle Araucaria araucana". Kew Gardens . Retrieved 13 December 2008.
  9. 1 2 Boulger, George Simonds (1894). "Menzies, Archibald (DNB00)"  . In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography . 37. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  10. C. Michael Hogan (2008) Douglas-fir: Pseudotsuga menziesii,, ed. Nicklas Strõmberg Archived 4 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  11. "Bensins Island". BC Geographical Names.
  12. Russell A. Apple (18 July 1973). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Ainapo Trail" (pdf). National Park Service.
  13. Quanchi, Max (2005). Historical Dictionary of the Discovery and Exploration of the Pacific Islands. The Scarecrow Press. p. 182. ISBN   0810853957.
  14. IPNI.  Menzies.

Further reading