Alexander McKay, originally from Scotland, arrived in New Zealand in 1863 at the age of 26. Seeking his fortune on the goldfields of the South Island, he developed an eye for the structure and history of the land. Ten years later, this self-educated explorer attracted the interest of the pioneer geologist Julius Haast, founder of the Canterbury Museum, who offered McKay his first job in geology, as a field assistant and collector of fossils for the displays of the fledgling museum. McKay eventually became the leading geologist in the New Zealand and made over 100,000 fossil collections. He was the first to document horizontal movement during an earthquake (Glynn Wye 1889), which won him a place in geological history. His ideas about mountain-building laid the foundations for new thinking by the next generation and for the birth of neo-tectonics. As a folk hero of New Zealand geology, McKay was also a pioneer for developing the world's first telephoto lens and photomicrographs. Legend has it that he also liked whisky with his porridge.
31 December 2008