top of page

Geoffrey Herklots 

Photograph by Elliot & Fry, 10 March, 1953© National Portrait Gallery, London

Herklots lived in Hong Kong for 20 years and was the first Reader in Biology at the University of Hong Kong. He helped the university set up a science faculty in 1939 and was appointed by the Hong Kong Government to manage food supply for the public during the war. He joined the Hong Kong Government as the Director of the Civil Engineering and Development Department after the war, and made significant contributions to the development of Hong Kong’s agriculture and fisheries, and the conservation of Hong Kong’s countryside

3.35 Photo of Herklots.jpg

1930s – 50s

Geoffrey Herklots

Yip Linfeng introduced Herklots several times in his book review column “Reading Hong Kong” (香港書錄), which showed that Yip had read quite a few of his works. They were only three years apart by age and belonged to the same generation. They also lived in Hong Kong during the same time, but never met each other.

“Herklots’ greatest contribution to the naturalist community in Hong Kong is the quarterly journal, The Hong Kong Naturalist, which he founded with his own effort," wrote Yip Linfeng. In addition to articles by professional ecologists and historians, the journal published writings and paintings by amateur naturalists. To make the publication more relatable to the public, Herklots insisted on using colourful illustrations and simple language. The quarterly was regarded as a guide for amateur naturalists at the time. Partly supported by Herklots’ salary, it continued to be published over a decade before the Fall of Hong Kong in 1941; most of the subscribers were expatriates living in Hong Kong. 

During the same time, a group of Chinese travelogue writers emerged in the local literary community. Among them was Wong Pui Gaai, who published travelogues in newspapers under the pen name “Old Friend from the Mountains” (江山故人). Wong was the first contemporary writer to document Hong Kong’s chorography in Chinese, and was successful in promoting the outdoor culture to the local audience. Unfortunately, Wong disappeared during the Fall of Hong Kong, and his articles became scattered or lost. It was only in recent years that the articles were compiled and published as a book. 


Nature Writing Before
Yip Linfeng


By S.B.J. Skertchly
The University of Hong Kong Libraries Collection

Unlike previously published scientific monographs, Our Island was the first English book on Hong Kong's nature. Penned by S.B.J. Skertchly, a geologist who taught botany at the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese (later the University of Hong Kong), the short essays depicted the ecology and nature of late-nineteenth-century Hong Kong. An avid butterfly enthusiast, he included a list of Hong Kong butterflies at the end of the book.

Our Island—A Naturalist's Description of Hong Kong


S.B.J. Skertchly

The University of Hong Kong Libraries collection

The journal attracted a group of local nature lovers to contribute as writers: A.H. Crook, Principal of the Queen's College, wrote about insects; Graham Heywood, later the Director of the Hong Kong Observatory, contributed essays on hiking; Fr. D. Finn S.J. on archaeology, and sinologist Song Xuepeng on the stories of New Territories.

The Hong Kong Naturalists Quarterly

The University of Hong Kong Libraries Collection

Some other publications by Herklots’