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LYSAGHT, AVERIL MARGARET (DR)

 

Averil Lysaght was born at her parents' residence at Mokoia, near Hawera, on the 14 April 1905, the daughter of Brian Cuthbert and Emily Muriel Lysaght nee Stowe. Educated by a governess at the family home at Mokoia, Averil went on to Chilton House Private Girls Boarding School at 255 The Terrace Wellington at the age of 12.

 

Averil showed an early interest and aptitude for the life sciences, and by 1921 at the age of 16, a new species of moth, melanchra averilla had been identified and named for her. In 1929, she obtained a Master of Science degree in Zoology from Victoria College (University), and after a short period on the staff,  went to England, where she lived for the rest of her life.

 

Further academic distinctions followed.  She was awarded a PhD by the University of London in 1935 for a thesis on the nematode parasites of thrips, based on work carried out at Rothamsted Experimental Station. In 1979, she received an honorary Degree in Literature from the Memorial University of Newfoundland in recognition of her highly praised book Joseph Banks in Newfoundland and Labrador 1776, the result of twenty years of research.

 

Averil never held a prominent academic post, but undertook brief lecturing periods at the Universities of Hull and Nottingham and had a largely honorary status at the British Museum (Natural History), and in her last years, at the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London.  Dr Lysaght was also a  former assistant editor of the zoological section of Chambers Encyclopedia, and edited the zoological material for the Hakluyt Society's edition of Cook's 1st two voyages and catalogued the bird paintings executed on all the voyages. She also provided J C Beaglehole with much of  the zoological and botanical notes for his books on James Cook's three voyages. 

 

From 1952, Averil was preparing herself for a definitive history of Sir Joseph Banks but  this was never finished. Another of her books was The Book of Birds - Five centuries of Bird Illustration of which a copy is held by the Hawera Public Library. Averil was an artist of great talent, a gift which first developed at Nottingham and later at St Martins School of Art in London.

 

"Miss Lysaght" as she was known by the children of Clerkenwell where she lived, was a name to conjure with when there was a playground, a tree or a historic building to save. She was also known for her cooking, mostly from her own garden which she cultivated.

 

Averil Lysaght died on the 21 August 1981 in London.

 

SOURCES

Obituary "The Times", London

Miss Sylvia Lysaght (sister)