KIDSON, Edward, O.B.E. (Mil.)
Magnetician and meteorologist.
A new biography of Kidson, Edward appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Edward Kidson was born on 12 March 1882 at Bilston, Staffordshire, England. In 1884 his parents moved to New Zealand and took up residence first at Nelson and then at Christchurch. Kidson received the first part of his secondary education at Nelson College and later attended the Christchurch Boys' High School. While there, he won successively a junior and senior national scholarship and proceeded to Canterbury University College. At Canterbury he won a senior scholarship and in 1906 graduated M.Sc. with first-class honours in physics. He also completed the honours course in mathematics and was awarded the degree of M.A. in 1907. After a short time on the staff of the Magnetic Observatory at Christchurch, Kidson accepted an appointment with the Carnegie Institution of Washington and worked with them from 1908 to 1914 on magnetic survey duties in many countries. These included South America, Newfoundland, and Australia.
In 1915 Kidson joined the British Meteorological Office with a view to taking up military service overseas. He was gazetted a lieutenant in the Royal Engineers and in 1916 proceeded to Salonika to join the Meteorological Section at the headquarters of the British Salonika Force. In 1917 he became officer commanding the section and was promoted to the rank of Captain. While serving with the Meteorological Section, he developed military forecasting services and was especially concerned with the application of meteorology to gunnery. For this work he was mentioned in dispatches and awarded the O.B.E.
After the war he resumed work with the Carnegie Institution, and in 1919 was placed in charge of the new magnetic observatory then being set up by the institution at Watheroo in Western Australia. This post meant a considerable degree of scientific isolation for Kidson and it is not surprising that in 1921 he accepted an appointment in Melbourne with the Commonwealth Meteorological Bureau. In taking this step, Kidson seems to have finally decided on meteorology as his life work, and from henceforth we find him working only in this field. While at Melbourne he carried out a considerable amount of meteorological research and was awarded the degree of D.Sc. by the University of New Zealand for his photographic determinations of cloud heights.
In 1927 he was appointed Director of the New Zealand Meteorological Service and immediately threw himself into the task of expanding the work of the Service to meet the rapidly increasing demands of the times. During these years Kidson published many original scientific papers on the weather and climate of New Zealand, and also found time to prepare meteorological studies with a wider background. He was specially interested in upper-air research and its bearing on the planetary air circulation in the Southern Hemisphere. In this connection Kidson showed much interest in the circulation prevailing in high southern latitudes and paid great attention to the results of the various Antarctic expeditions. He was the author of the volume on meteorology published in the Reports on the Scientific Observations of the British Antarctic Expedition of 1907–1909, and during the last 10 years of his life much of his time was spent in compiling the meteorological results of the various expeditions led by Sir Douglas Mawson. As a result of these works Kidson was regarded as one of the world authorities on Antarctic meteorology. In addition to his Antarctic work and his studies of New Zealand weather and climate, Kidson also pioneered the introduction of frontal and air-mass analysis (then being developed by the Scandinavian meteorologists) into the Australian – New Zealand region. In furtherance of this work he twice visited Norway and returned to New Zealand with first-hand knowledge of the latest developments in this field. He died at Wellington on 12 June 1939 at the age of 57.
Kidson was the first New Zealand meteorologist with a thorough training in mathematics and physics. Apart from his personal scientific output, his main achievement in this country was the establishment of the Meteorological Service on a firm scientific basis, while at the same time directing the rapid expansion of forecasting and climato-logical services to meet the urgent demands of the community.
by Jack William Hutchings, B.A., M.SC., Senior Principal Meteorologist, Meteorological Service, Wellington.
- Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Vol. 69, May 1940 (Obit).