Archibald Menzies (pronounced "Mingis") lived from 15 March 1754 to 15 February 1842. He was a surgeon and naturalist who made the first recorded ascent of Mauna Loa in Hawaii. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Archibald Menzies was born at Weem near Aberfeldy in Perthshire. While working alongside his brother at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh his potential was recognised by John Hope, Professor of Botany at Edinburgh University. He went on to study medicine at Edinburgh University and spent some time as an assistant to a doctor in Wales before joining the Royal Navy as assistant surgeon on HMS Nonsuch. He was present at the Battle of the Saintes on 12 April 1782, and was later posted by the Navy to Halifax Station in Nova Scotia.
In 1786 Menzies served as ship's surgeon on HMS Prince of Wales during a journey to the north Pacific that took in the west coast of North America, China, and Hawaii (known at the time as the Sandwich Isles). As well as his medical duties, Menzies spent time collecting new plants. He returned to Britain in 1789 and was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, the world's oldest biological society.
In 1790, Menzies was appointed as naturalist on board HMS Discovery, which, under the command of Captain George Vancouver set off on a five year voyage around the world. While wintering in Hawaii in 1794, Menzies, with Lieutenant Joseph Baker and two other men, made the first recorded ascent of Mauna Loa. Menzies used a portable barometer to measure the height of the volcano to be 13,564ft (4134m), which compares well with modern measurements of 13,679ft (4169m).
After the voyage, Menzies spent some time in the West Indies, before retiring from the Royal Navy and returning to Britain. He was awarded his MD by the University of Aberdeen in 1799, and established himself as a doctor in London's Notting Hill. He was also appointed President of the Linnean Society. He died in London in 1842 and is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery.
Menzies' name is commemorated in the scientific names of several of the plants he discovered, including Menziesia, a genus of shrubs in the Ericaceae, and the Douglas-fir Pseudotsuga menziesii, one of the most significant trees in western North America. The Pacific madrone, an evergreen tree and largest of the Ericaceae, was named Arbutus menziesii in his honour by Friedrich Pursh.