“William Lowthian Green was born in Doughty street, London, September 13, 1819. He received his early education in Liverpool, which was completed at King William’s College in the Isle of Man.”
“As a boy he was fond of athletic sports. He was a famous rider and gymnast. His cleverness as well as his thoroughly reliable character made him a favorite with his teachers and school-fellows.”
“He was by profession a merchant. His family for two generations had been engaged in commercial pursuits in the north of England.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, February 21, 1900)
Green, “was a man of middle height, with delicate features, pale complexion, & broad and high forehead and curly, dark brown hair. The curls he used to scrupulously straighten when a boy; it was considered “girlish” in those days to have curly hair.”
“The hair, as well as a nervous, active temperament, he inherited from his mother, who was partly of Scottish descent. On the paternal side of his house, Mr. Green had Italian blood in his veins. This mixture of nationalities is common in the genealogies of commercial people.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, February 21, 1900)
He worked for his father’s company in Liverpool and as part of that sailed to Buenos Ayres. On his return (1843,) he got the idea of building a screw steamer and self-start some shipping in South America. That failed.
He then joined the rush to California to try his luck finding gold (some of his friends were fortunate, there.) He wasn’t.
Green’s health failed after some time in the goldfields and in 1850 he determined to go to China. The ship called at Honolulu, and Green, unable to withstand the hardships of a sailor’s life, and having letters to prominent residents of Honolulu, presented his credentials. (Nellist)
“On his arrival at Honolulu he had to attend firstly to material wants. He happened to be most kindly received by a merchant, Mr Robert Cheshire Janion”. (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, February 21, 1900)
A few years later, Green was made a partner with Janion and the firm name became Janion, Green & Co. During this period, Green took a leading part in establishing the Honolulu Iron Works.
Some years later the partnership of Janion and Green was dissolved and Green entered business on his own account. (The Janion firm later became Theo H Davies, one of Hawaiʻi’s ‘Big 5’ companies.)
In 1852, the British first opened the “Mess” rooms (a club;) it started in a one-story wooden building off of Maunakea street, which was reached by a lane leading to the rear of the premises known as Liberty Hall (also known as Bugle Alley.) Green was the head of the Mess. (Today, it is known as Pacific Club.)
But Green’s passion was not business, social or political.
“During the intervals of leisure in his several occupations as merchant, founder of the now prosperous iron works, sugar planter, Deputy British Commissioner, Senator and at times Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, his mind, we may be certain, was fixed upon the working out of the geological theory of the conformation of the earth’s crust.”
“Independently of his business occupations he had to contend with the difficulty of pursuing his scientific studies thousands of miles distant from Europe and out of the immediate reach of books, the papers of learned societies, and, above all, of daily converse with men of kindred ideas in his own country.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, February 21, 1900)
Mr. Green is best known abroad as a geologist, having made a special study of volcanoes and volcanic phenomena. His published volumes, ‘The Vestiges of the Molten Globe,’ have attracted wide attention, and have established for him a permanent name in scientific circles all over the world. (Nellist)
“Part I of Mr Green’s ‘Vestiges of the Molten Globe’ was published by Stanford in London in 1875.” It didn’t fare well. The publisher wrote to him “that he wants to get the remaining copies of the ‘Vestiges of the Molten Globe’ out of his way. They will not realize much as waste paper, as there is not much paper about them.’”
“Part II of the “Vestiges of the Molten Globe” was printed and published in Honolulu in 1887 under Mr. Green’s own superintendence, but at a time when his health was beginning finally to give way. Only a few copies of the work reached England, and these were sent by him personally to leading scientific men.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, February 21, 1900)
“His second volume, urging his theory of hydrostatic pressure as the main uplifting force of lava columns from below, is also of great popular interest from its graphic as well as systematized accounts of the phenomena of our volcanoes of Kīlauea and Mokuʻaweoweo.”
“This eminent gentleman closed his long and serviceable life, at his home on the 7th of December (1890,) at the ripe age of 72 years, and after more than a year of physical prostration, during which, however, his mind was clear and active.”
“The deceased leaves a widow, a daughter of the late Dr McKibben, and one child, the wife of Mr JNS Williams, the accomplished manager of the Union Iron Works of this city.” (The Friend, January 1, 1891)
The image shows William Lowthian Green.
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