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Thomas Henry Potts

Thomas Henry Potts, 1824-1888, is best known for his contribution to Walter Lawry Buller’s Birds of New Zealand.

Through his father Potts inherited both a fortune and the family firm of Branders and Potts, later one of a group which formed the Birmingham Small Arms Co and it was this fortune which allowed him to indulge his passion for natural history.

After the death of his parents, Potts emigrated to New Zealand where his father-in-law had settled at Rockwood in the Malvern Hills, Canterbury. In 1858 the family lived at “Ohinetahi”, Governors Bay, Lyttelton Harbour, the home most associated with them; and from here Potts made extensive explorations into the mountainous districts of Canterbury, Westland, and Banks Peninsula.

Pott’s acute observations of nature gave to New Zealand literature unique records of birds and flora even then retreating before the progress of European occupation. Among new species discovered by Potts were the Roa or great grey kiwi, and the black-billed gull.

Potts was a member of the Canterbury Provincial Council, for Port Victoria, from 1858 to 1861 and from 1866 to 1875, member of the House of Representatives for Mount Herbert from 1866 to 1870, and was the first parliamentarian to advocate forest conservation.

Best remembered for “Out in the Open”, a collection of scraps of natural history, Potts was a contributor to the Canterbury Times, the Field, London, the New Zealand Country Journal, the Journal of the Linnaean Society, the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute.

Credit: Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
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