Science and Natural History

Major Richard William George Hingston (1887-1966) physician, explorer and naturalist.

He spent his early life in the family home at Horsehead in Passage, West County Cork, then was educated at Merchant Taylors' School and at University College Cork. Hingston graduated from the National University of Ireland with first-class honours in 1910 and almost immediately passed into the Indian Medical Service by examination.

In 1913 he was seconded from military duty and took part as a naturalist in the Indo-Russian Pamir triangulation expedition. He subsequently went on war service and saw action in East Africa, France and Mesopotamia. In 1920 he published a book detailing travels in the Himalayan valley of Hazara, in what is now Pakistan, entitled A Naturalist in Himalaya. He was elected to the Royal Geographical Society in 1922. In 1924 he was appointed medical officer and naturalist to the Mount Everest Expedition, although he was not a mountaineer by profession but rather a doctor and naturalist. He collected many specimens that were given to the Natural History Museum in London and later wrote Physiological Difficulties in the Ascent of Mount Everest, published in The Alpine Journal (1925). Despite his lack of official climbing skills, Dr. Hingston was able to come to the aid of Edward Norton at Camp IV when Norton was struck by snow blindness.

From 1925 till 1927, he acted as surgeon-naturalist to the Marine Survey of India on H.I.M.S. Investigator, a post which provided rich fields of scientific treasure for several Indian Medical Service officers. Hingston retired from the Indian Medical Service on pension in 1927, and went to Greenland as second in command of the Oxford University expedition to that territory. In the following year, he took command of an expedition sent by the same university to British Guiana. A Naturalist in British Guiana Forests appeared in 1932. He subsequently undertook a mission to Rhodesia, Nyasaland, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanganyika to investigate the methods of preserving the indigenous fauna. As a result of the investigation he wrote Proposed British National Parks for Africa, a paper read at the Evening Meeting of the Geographical Society on 9 March 1931 and later published in the Geographical Journal. Hingston stressed the necessity of creating National Parks, to protect the endangered fauna. He proposed locations and solutions how to deal with difficulties and problems arising.


He was recalled to military duty in India in 1939, and remained there until 1946. After the Second World War Major Hingston retired to his home in Southern Ireland. In his later years, he was severely handicapped by arthritis, which he bore with great stamina. A born naturalist and philosopher, with an attractive personality, Hingston was a credit to the great service to which he belonged, and although, unlike his contemporaries Sinton and Shortt, he never gained admission to the Royal Society, his vast range of knowledge in the biological field and his sterling achievements were widely admired.

Sources: Obituary: Major Richard William George Hingston, M.C., The Geographical Journal 132(4):598
R. W. G. Hingston, Proposed British National Parks for Africa, The Geographical Journal, Vol. 77, No. 5 (May, 1931), pp. 401-422

A naturalist in Himalaya

Picture: Hingston Collection, Trinity College Library Dublin