Simon Nathan

Simon Nathan's picture

Member Profile

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PHANZA Joining Date
History of science, West Coast region, Kermadec Islands
About Me

I am an earth scientist with a strong interest in history. Actually the two disciplines aren’t that different – the geologist is trying to read the past using the record of the rocks rather than human writings. As a New Zealand representative on the International Commission on the History of Geological Sciences (INHIGEO), I am interested in the development of scientific ideas, and have written biographies of several mid-20th century geologists

Much of my career has been spent researching the geology of the West Coast of the South Island. I was awarded a DSc for publications on this distinctive region, for which I have a deep affection. From 2003-2007 I was science editor for Te Ara, the online Encylopedia of New Zealand, covering a broad range of natural history topics. This has led to a growing interest in writing for the web as an effective way of presenting material to a 21st century audience. In 2008 I completed an article on the West Coast region for Te Ara. I have recently completed a an illustrated biography of Joseph Divis, miner and photographer, who recorded life in gold mines and mining communities, My current research project is a biography of James Hector (1834-1907), pioneer explorer and scientist.

Publications and Research

Publications available on the internet

Living in the Shaky Isles: the human response to earthquakes since 1840. Talk given to the PHANZA conference, 2011.

Harold Wellman and the Alpine Fault of New Zealand. Episodes 44(1): 51-56 (2011)

‘Earth, Sea & Sky’ theme of Te Ara – several articles, including Geological Exploration; Geology; Rock and Mineral Names; Mining and Underground Resources; Natural Hazards

‘The Bush’ theme of Te Ara – articles include Conservation - a history; Collections of Plants and Animals; Lakes

'Places' theme of Te Ara: The West Coast region

Blog contributions to Te Ara; Book reviews for Scoop Books

The 1947 Greymouth Beer Boycott (NZ History Online)
Waiuta - through the eyes of a miner (NZ History Online)
Seddonville - a forgotten coal town (NZ HIstory Online)
The Fighting Frickletons (NZ History Online)


'Through the eyes of a miner: the photography of Joseph Divis', Steele Roberts, 2010, 112 pp.

‘The amazing world of James Hector’ (editor & contributor). Awa Press, 2008, 185 pp.

‘Harold Wellman: a man who moved New Zealand’. Victoria University Press, 2005 (reprinted 2008), 272 pp.

‘From Mountains to Meteorites’ (with Brian Mason). Geological Society of NZ miscellaneous publication 109, 2001, 72 pp.

‘A Geologist Remembers: recollections of fieldwork’ (with Maxwell Gage). Geological Society of New Zealand miscellaneous publication 102, 1999, 52 pp.

Earth Science publications

Approximately 50 monographs, maps, papers and reports, including:

‘Geology of the Greymouth area’. Institute of Geological & Nuclear Science 1:250,000 geological map (+ 58 pp text). 2002.

‘Cretaceous and Cenozoic sedimentary basins of the West Coast region, South Island, New Zealand’. New Zealand Geological Survey basin studies 1, 1986, 40 map sheets + 90 pp.

‘Geology and tephrochonology of Raoul Island, Kermadec Group, New Zealand’. New Zealand Geological Survey bulletin 95, 1981, map + 105 pp. [Includes an account of the 1815, 1870 and 1965 eruptions].


Member for
7 years 9 weeks