Dr. J. M. Bell, FRGS: A Canadian Auxiliary Geographer in New Zealand


  • Michael Roche




Using Hodder’s notion of “biography as method,” this paper examines the geographical endeavours of James Mackintosh Bell, Director of the New Zealand Geological Survey from 1905 to 1911, in New Zealand and Canada. Canadian born, Harvard trained, Bell has a significant place in the history of geology in New Zealand and mining geology in Canada, yet much of his writing was explicitly geographical in orientation. This essay analyses this body of work and its significance and limitations in adding to and disseminating knowledge of the geography of NZ, particularly. Bell credentialed himself geographically as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (FRGS). The FRGS were important builders of geographical knowledge in NZ from the 1850s up to the establishment of university geography in the 1930s when formal geographical research commenced. Geologists were a numerically significant group amongst the NZ FRGS, distinctive in that they held university qualifications, and Bell was particularly wide ranging in his geographical interests.


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