LUCAS, Arthur Henry Shakespeare (1853-1936)


LUCAS, Arthur Henry Shakespeare (1853-1936)
schoolmaster and scientist
son of the Rev. Samuel Lucas, Wesleyan minister, was born at Stratford-on-Avon on 7 May 1853. His father was much interested in geology and botany, and the boy developed an interest in natural science. His early childhood was spent in Cornwall, and when he was about nine years of age a move was made to Stow on the Wold in Gloucestershire. Here Lucas went to his first private school, but soon afterwards was sent to the new Kingswood school at Bath, where he was given a sound education in the classics, modern languages, and mathematics. In 1870 he went to Balliol College, Oxford, with an exhibition, and mixed with men of whom many became the most distinguished of their time. An illness before his final examination prevented him from having any chance of high honours, but he later won the Burdett-Coutts geological scholarship. He then went to London to begin a medical course, and won the entrance science scholarship to the London hospital in the east end. When he was halfway through his course his elder brother was ordered to leave England and went to Australia. Lucas abandoned his course, became a master at The Leys school, Cambridge, and provided for his brother's three young children whose mother had died. He had previously won the gold medal at an examination for botany held by the Apothecaries Society, open to all medical students of the London schools. Lucas enjoyed his five years experience at The Leys school. He found the boys frank, cheery and high-spirited, fond of games and yet able to do good work in the class-rooms. He played in the football team, until he broke his collar-bone, and founded a natural history society of which the whole school became members. A museum was established to which Lucas gave his father's fine collection of fossils, and also the family collection of plants, which contained 1200 out of the 1400 described species of British flowering plants and ferns. The museum grew in after years, and obtained a reputation at Cambridge when one of the boys made interesting finds in the pleistocene beds of the Cam valley. Some work done by Lucas in the Isle of Wight, the results of which were given in a paper published in the Geological Magazine, led to Lucas being elected a fellow of the Geological Society. He applied in 1882 for the headmastership of Wesley College, Melbourne, but the appointment was given to A. S. Way (q.v.). Later on he was appointed mathematical and science master at the same school, arrived in Melbourne at the end of January 1883, and immediately began his work.
Lucas had a career of just over 40 years as a school teacher in Australia. He was 10 years at Wesley College, and was then at the end of 1892 appointed headmaster of Newington College, Sydney. During his six years at Newington the number of pupils increased by 50 per cent and the school had much academic success. In 1899 he became senior mathematical and science master at the Sydney grammar school, was acting headmaster for part of the war years, and finally headmaster from 1920 to 1923. He was an admirable teacher, beloved by many generations of schoolboys, and exercising great moral influence on them. He did not confine his life to school work, and while at Wesley College also lectured on natural science to the colleges at the university of Melbourne, and in later years lectured on physiography at the university of Sydney. He also took much interest in the various learned societies, and during his early days at Melbourne was president of the Field Naturalist's Club and edited the Victorian Naturalist for some years. He was a member of the council of the Royal Society of Victoria, and subsequently of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, of which he also became president. He contributed many papers to their proceedings; a list of over 60 of them will be found in the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, vol. LXII, pp. 250-2. He wrote with Arthur Dendy An Introduction to the Study of Botany which was published in 1892 (3rd ed. 1915), with W. H. D. Le Souef, The Animals of Australia (1909), and The Birds of Australia (1911). After retiring from school teaching at 70 years of age, Lucas became acting-professor of mathematics at the university of Tasmania for over two years. He afterwards continued his scientific studies, giving particular attention to the algae on which he was the Australian authority. His handbook, Part 1 of The Seaweeds of South Australia was issued just after his death. He contracted a cold while working on the rocks at Warrnambool in May 1936, and during the journey to his home collapsed on the train at Albury. He was taken to a private hospital and died on 10 June. He married in August 1882 Charlotte Christmas who died in 1919. He was survived by three daughters.
Lucas was modest, completely unselfish and kind. He was a fine scholar, learned in several languages and in several sciences. Possibly if he had confined himself to one department he might have obtained more distinction, but his work in any department was worthy of respect. He ranks among the greater Australian schoolmasters, and he was one of the best all-round Australian scientists of his time. His portrait by Hanke hangs in the Assembly Hall of the Sydney grammar school. His interesting autobiography, A. H. S. Lucas, Scientist, His Own Story, with appreciations by contemporaries, was published in 1937.
A. H. S. Lucas, Scientist, His Own Story; H. J. Carter, Proceedings of the Linnean Society of South Wales, vol. LXII, pp. 243-52; The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 June 1936.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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