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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


FERGUSON, Sir Henry Lindo, C.M.G.


Professor of ophthalmology in the University of Otago, dean of the medical faculty.

A new biography of Ferguson, Henry Lindo appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Ferguson's father was a chemist and a founder of the Chemical Society, who was awarded a gold medal by the Royal Dublin Society for his researches upon silver nitrate, the foundation of modern photography. Henry Lindo Ferguson was born in London on 7 April 1858, going with his family to Dublin in 1866. He was educated in private schools in Ireland and entered the Royal College of Science for Ireland in 1873 at the early age of 15 years. At the age of 16, he was awarded one of two Royal Scholarships in Industrial Chemistry. Ferguson decided, however, to enter medicine. He enrolled at Trinity College, Dublin, where he was a gold medallist for his preliminary work in arts. He qualified in medicine in 1880 and decided to train for ophthalmology, entering into residence at St. Mark's Ophthalmic Hospital, Dublin. His subsequent post-graduate studies included experience in Germany, and an assistantship to the late Charles Fitzgerald, then Oculist (in Ireland) to the Queen. In 1883 he took the F.R.C.S. (Ireland). His health being unsatisfactory, he decided to come to Dunedin where there was a medical school. He was at once appointed honorary ophthalmologist to the Dunedin Hospital staff and in 1886 lecturer in ophthalmology in the medical school. During the next 65 years he established not only the speciality of ophthalmology in New Zealand, but in addition built a modern medical school on the firm foundations already laid by Dr John Halliday Scott. His family background and early training in science and the arts as well as in his own speciality provided him with a wide view of life which enabled him to guide the rapidly growing medical school on sound lines of development. In May 1914 he was elected dean of the faculty of medicine. He immediately commenced to plan a modern medical school housed in new buildings adjacent to the Dunedin Hospital, with adequate finance, staff, and equipment. For the next 22 years – in season and out of season – he devoted all his energies and abilities to this end. He retired from the staff of the Dunedin Hospital in 1934 after 52 years' distinguished service in the department of ophthalmology.

In 1909 the University of Otago made him professor of ophthalmology in recognition of his 25 years of service as lecturer. In 1924 he received the honorary fellowship of the American College of Surgeons; in 1927 he became a foundation fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, and in 1935 the University of Melbourne conferred on him an honorary M.D. He was created C.M.G. in 1918 and was knighted in 1924.

Throughout his long life in Dunedin his gracious hospitality was extended to students and staff alike. His generosity was proverbial. He endowed the Ferguson Fund to assist medical research in the medical school and contributed substantially to setting up a dean's fund to assist students in financial difficulties. He donated many books and journals to the medical library. He was a member of the University Council and of the New Zealand University Senate, was president of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery Association, and a foundation member of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.

In 1884 at Dunedin Ferguson married Mary Emmeline Butterworth of Dunedin, by whom he had one son, Gerald.

He died on 22 January 1948, in his ninetieth year.

by Charles Ernest Hercus, KT., D.S.O., O.B.E., U.D., M.B. CH.B.(N.Z.), M.D., D.P.H., B.D.S., F.R.C.P., F.R.A.C.P., F.R.A.C.S., Emeritus Professor, University of Otago.

  • Medical Practice in Otago and Southland in the Early Days, Fulton, R. V. (1922)
  • Annals of the University of Otago Medical School, 1875–1939, Carmalt Jones, D. W. (1945).


Charles Ernest Hercus, KT., D.S.O., O.B.E., U.D., M.B. CH.B.(N.Z.), M.D., D.P.H., B.D.S., F.R.C.P., F.R.A.C.P., F.R.A.C.S., Emeritus Professor, University of Otago.