Ruby L. Gough. Robert Edwards Holloway: Newfoundland Educator, Scientist, Photographer, 1874-1904. -

Ruby L. Gough. Robert Edwards Holloway: Newfoundland Educator, Scientist, Photographer, 1874-1904.

Geoff Rayner-Canham
Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Memorial University

Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-7735-2852-0

1 UNTIL ROBERT HOLLOWAY arrived in St. John's from Britain in 1874, there was no science teaching in the colony. Over the following 30 years, Holloway introduced modern science as a core part of the grade school curriculum. We also have to thank Holloway for documenting Newfoundland life and scenery in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries through his hobby of photography.

2 In this comprehensive biography, Gough has traced Holloway's origins and then followed him through his education in Britain to his influential work in St. John's. Born in 1850 to Wesleyan parents, Holloway never strayed from his Methodist roots. His father was a teacher and teaching was in Holloway's blood. Holloway was fortunate to have been in the right places at the right times. During his education, he attended a course for teachers given by the renowned scientist, Thomas Huxley, at the newly built College of Science in South Kensington, London. Having been fired with enthusiasm for the cause of science, an advertisement for a Principal at St. John's Wesleyan Academy proved to be irresistible.

3 As soon as he arrived in St. John's, Holloway pushed for science laboratory facilities. The board supported his wishes and the Model School became known for the quality of the science teaching, particularly mineralogy. Huxley had been a pioneer in Britain of public science lectures and Holloway emulated his idol, giving presentations on science to the citizens of St. John's from the year he arrived. Holloway avidly followed new discoveries primarily using the journal Scientific American. He would incorporate these new technologies, such as the telephone and phonograph, in both his school laboratory and his public presentations.

4 It was his lecture on the topic of light that became the talk of St. John's. For three consecutive nights, Holloway held many of the citizens of St. John's spellbound at the Athanaeum library. The audience packed the hall and overflowed onto the staircases. Since the beginning of civilization, artificial light had consisted of the flickering flames of oil lamps; the new science and technology changed that. It was not surprising, then, that the limelight, whereby intense light was produced by playing gas flames onto blocks of lime, and the electric arc lamp, both of which Holloway demonstrated, should have produced amazement and awe among the throng.

5 Holloway's public success contrasted with his personal problems. His health, which was never the best, declined over time. Two of his four children died during the diphtheria epidemic of 1888. And then there was the great fire of 1892 which included in its destruction, the school and family home. Nevertheless, from the ashes arose the New Methodist College with new up-to-date laboratory facilities.

6 It is to Holloway's desire to explore every part of his adopted homeland that we owe many superb photographic images of the province (an excellent selection of which are provided). Each summer from at least the 1880s, Holloway travelled with his family around the coast of the island and up to Labrador. He gathered notes for a book, but what is more important are the images. In particular, he delighted in scenes in which the hills or houses were reflected in a still body of water.

7 To the very end of his life, Holloway revelled in the new scientific discoveries of the age. He bought the first X-ray generator to Newfoundland, showing how it could be used to observe broken bones in medical patients (though the X-ray dosage received would be many exponents greater than that acceptable today). Holloway even purchased a sample of radium to study the rays that it produced. After his death, Holloway's contributions lived on. The outstanding successes of many of his students attested to the crucial role of his teaching and mentoring skills. When fire again destroyed the Methodist College, the rebuilt school was renamed the Holloway School in 1929. The General Protestant Cemetery in St. John's contains a monument to Holloway.

8 Gough has produced a minutely and comprehensively researched definitive work on Holloway's life. She has done a great service in bringing to light the founder of science education in Newfoundland. The book is wellstructured, with lighter chapters on Holloway's summer excursions interspersing the detailed minutiae of school life. There are eight Appendices, nearly all of Holloway's own writings on such topics as his X-ray experiments as described in the College magazine. The end notes are thorough and the index detailed.

9 The only general complaint of this reviewer is the periodic additions of unsubstantiated thoughts of Holloway, such as "Time seemed to crawl by as Holloway waited for a reply" (26); and "Holloway wondered about the chances of his top students" (185). Musings on how Holloway probably felt, for example, "As the summer ended, Holloway would be looking forward to ..." (100), are fine. It is the claims in many locations to have his precise thoughts that are irksome. Only one specific error could be found, and this may have originated from the cited source: the College of Science in South Kensington, London, was/is not the "National" College but the "Royal" College.

10 This book is an important addition to every library of Newfoundland studies. Holloway's contributions deserve to be remembered.

Newfoundland and Labrador Studies. ISSN: 1715-1430