George Malcolm Thomson

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George was born while his parents were living in India and spent much of his childhood there.

In 1854 he was sent to Edinburgh, Scotland with his two brothers and a sister, to be educated in the care of his aunt, Anna Pratt, and her husband James Gordon, an artist. There were only two common routes to and from India at that time. Steamer ships operated between India and Suez Canal, Egypt, where passengers then travelled overland to Egypt to embark on another steamer to the UK. Alternatively, many sailing ships made the long voyage around the Africa, via the Cape of Good Hope.

When his parents finally returned from India in June 1863, it was said with a sizable fortune, they decided to settle in the South and rented a furnished home known as The Cedars in Enfield, then a country district near London. Two years later they moved to Bush Hill House near New Southgate, in Middlesex.

George studied chemistry and botany at the University of Edinburgh but left after just a year, to help his father establish a merchant office in London.

When the Agra and Masterman Bank in India failed, in 1867, George's father lost a large part of his capital. He decided to use what was remaining to emigrate to New Zealand. The family sailed from Greenock in the Brig “Maria”, in December 1867, all except George's eldest brother, John, who returned to Kolkata, India and settled there.

George's uncle, John Pratt, had died a year earlier, leaving a widow and four children. It is not known what happened to the only son, John, but the widow, Matilda, who was then only 26, married again and George's father took his three nieces, Margaret, Matilda and Bessie, with him to New Zealand.

Otago Province, where they settled, had been formed in 1848 and was still in a very undeveloped state. They bought a farm in Southland, near Invercargill, called Mabel Bush. It did not prosper and eventually the family sold up and moved to Dunedin.

In 1871, rather than continue with farming, George became a teacher. He taught science at the High School of Otago and also music and chemistry at the Girls' Provincial School.

George was a fellow of the New Zealand Institute and the Linnean Society of London and wrote works on botany and zoology.

He served as President of the New Zealand Institute. In 1985 the society created a prestigious award to be made in recognition of outstanding contributions in the fields of the organisation, administration or application of science. The award is known as the Thomson Medal and commemorates the contributions made to science by George and his son, George Stuart Thomson. It is awarded every two years.

First elected to Parliament in 1908, George was a member of the Legislative Council of New Zealand for 6 years and then subsequently the Legislative Council of New Zealand for 14 years.

Even though his father attended the Congregational Church, George became a member of the Knox Church, one of the early Scottish Presbyterian churches in Dunedin, rising to the position of Elder.

At the time of his death, in 1933, George was living at 99, Eglinton Road, Dunedin, New Zealand.


Date Known

2 October 1848

George Malcolm Thomson is born to Margaret Justina Pratt and William Thomson in Kolkata, India.


John Thomson, James Cox Thomson, George Malcolm Thomson and Elizabeth Anna Thomson are sent to be educated in Scotland.

December 1867

William and Margaret Thomson emigrate to New Zealand with their children James, Elizabeth and George plus three neices Margaret, Matilda and Elizabeth.


William Malcolm Thomson is born to Emma Allan and George Malcolm Thomson.


George Stuart Thomson is born to Emma Allan and George Malcolm Thomson.

September 1885

Florence Jane Thomson is born to Emma Allan and George Malcolm Thomson in Dunedin, New Zealand. Sources: 1

29 August 1887

Elizabeth Anna Thomson is born to Emma Allan and George Malcolm Thomson in Dunedin, New Zealand. Sources: 1


George Malcolm Thomson becomes President of the New Zealand Institute.


George Malcolm Thomson becomes a Member of Parliament, representing the Dunedin, New Zealand North constituency in the House of Representatives. Sources: 2


George Malcolm Thomson's term as President of the New Zealand Institute ends.

6 May 1932

George Malcolm Thomson's second term as a member of Legislative Council of New Zealand ends. Sources: 1

Date Unknown

Date Unknown

Emma Allan and George Malcolm Thomson marry. Sources: 1