Sir Everard im Thurn

1852 - 1932

Colonial administrator, anthropologist and explorer. Born in London, im Thurn was the son of a Swiss merchant banker, who emigrated to London and set up his own firm in 1868. He was educated at Marlborough College, followed by Exeter College, Oxford, and the Universities of Edinburgh and Sydney. His maternal grandmother was from Fife. He was supported by the noted botanist Sir Joseph Hooker and was able to secure the position as Curator of the British Guyana Museum 1877-82) and then, in 1884, led the first expedition to climb the remote and difficult Mount Roraima, the highest of the spectacular tepui or table-top mountains on the border between Guyana, Venezuela and Brazil. He described his botanical and anthropological findings, having discovered unique plant communities isolated by the spectacular cliffs which surround the summit plateau. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 - 1930) heard im Thurn's lecture on his expedition and this is said to have inspired Conan Doyle 's book The Lost World (1912) and subsequent films.

Im Thurn went on to become a Government Agent in British Guyana (1891-99), and was asked to present the British case in a long-running boundary dispute between British Guyana and Venezuela (1897-99). He was also responsible for bringing development to Guyana and establishing its gold industry. He next served as Colonial Secretary and Lieutenant-Governor of Ceylon (1901-03) and then as Governor of Fiji and High Commissioner of the Western Pacific (1904-10), a position which permitted extensive travel through the likes of the Gilbert and Ellis Islands, New Hebrides, Norfolk Island, Solomon Islands and Tonga. He was appointed CB in 1900 and knighted five years later.

Retiring initially to London in 1910, where he was able to pursue his interests with several learned societies, im Thurn moved to Scotland in 1921, with his Scottish wife Hannah Lorimer, who he had married in 1895. She was the sister of noted architect Sir Robert Lorimer (1864 - 1929) and artist John Henry Lorimer (1856 -1936). The couple took up residence in Cockenzie House (East Lothian) where he was to spend the remainder of his life.

He served as President of the Royal Anthropological Institute (1919-21), and set up their branch in Edinburgh, and also as Chairman of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (1926 - 30). Im Thurn is remembered as a polymath, making contributions to exploration, botany, ornithology, geography, ethnography and anthropology. He was one of the first anthropologists to use photography in the field. His collections were gifted to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and the Royal Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

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