PhD researcher Adrian Young at Otago Museum. Photo by Craig Baxter
Western academia's fascination with Pitcairn and Norfolk
Islands says more about academia than about the remote
outposts on which its gaze was fixed, visiting researcher
Adrian Young says.
For his history of science PhD at Princeton University, in
the United States, Mr Young (28) is focused on the people who
studied Pitcairn and Norfolk Islands through history.
In their own ways, both places were seen as a ''natural
laboratory of humanity'' because of their unusual history and
small gene pool.
Norfolk was a microcosm of colonial settlement, as it was
settled by Pitcairners in 1856 because of fear over a lack of
resources on Pitcairn, which was itself settled nearly seven
decades earlier by the mutineers of the Bounty.
The body of work from various writings and field trips formed
its own history of science and its practitioners, as well as
prevailing fashions and political trends in the West.
Research interests sometimes reflected ''dark'' aspects of
Western culture; for instance, the island was viewed with
interest by eugenicists when the idea was in vogue in Western
It was surprising the extent to which supposedly scientific
researchers were swayed by myths about the islanders, he
He planned to visit both islands for the first time later
His study brought him to Dunedin because of the work of the
late University of Otago archaeologist Peter Gathercole, who
led an exhibition to Pitcairn in 1963-64.
Mr Young was studying artefacts housed at Otago Museum
gathered on that expedition and also items acquired through
He spent four days in Dunedin and a month in New Zealand.
Most of his visit was spent in Wellington.