Professor, mining engineer, surveyor, and explorer.
A new biography of Park, James appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
James Park was born in 1857 at Thaneston Hall in the Valley of the Don, near Aberdeen, and was the son and grandson of an engineer. He studied geology and mining at the Royal School of Mines (1873–74) and came to New Zealand in the Soukar in the following year. In 1878 he joined the New Zealand Geological Survey – then under Dr Hector – as a field assistant. Park transferred to the Department of Lands and Survey as a computing draughtsman (1882–84), but returned to the Geological Survey as a mining geologist. At that time much of New Zealand was only partially explored and Park's duties led him into many remote districts. Three of these especially – the King Country, north-west Nelson, and north-west Otago – called forth all his skill as an explorer and mountaineer. In 1888 he began a study of the Hauraki goldfields, and his extensive memoir was published in 1897. In 1890 he became director of the Thames School of Mines and manager of the Government experimental cyanide works. From 1895 to 1900 he was consultant to the Anglo-Continental Syndicate, a London financial organisation with mining interests on the Hauraki goldfield, but in 1901 he gave this up to become director of the Otago University School of Mines and professor of mining and mining geology. He held these positions until his retirement in 1931. He proved himself an able teacher, and some of his students became leading members of the mining profession.
Park's versatility, keen insight for essentials, and rapid, clear style of writing are manifest in his series of textbooks on mining, geology, surveying, hydraulics, and assaying, all of which have been published in several editions, his first, The Cyanide Process of Gold Extraction (1894) running to 10. His well-documented Geology of New Zealand (1910) is a milestone in New Zealand geology. Park's judgment in practical matters was valued and his consulting work took him to many parts of the world. His wide experience, geniality, and his interests in the personal concerns of his students – particularly in football – made him a popular member of the University staff.
Park married twice: first, in 1880, to Frances, daughter of Captain W. Rogers; and secondly, in 1918, to Janie, daughter of James Gray of St. Clair, Dunedin. He died in Dunedin on 29 July 1946. Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park, G.C.B., K.B.E., M.C. (AND BAR), D.F.C., is a son.
by Alexander Russell Mutch, B.SC., A.O.S.M., New Zealand Geological Survey, Dunedin.
- Otago Daily Times, 30 Jul 1946 (Obit).