Arthur Purchas was said to be perhaps the most gifted person ever to come to this country. Surgeon and doctor, architect, engineer, geologist, explorer, musician, botanist, artist, priest, inventor, in his time he was one of our most prominent citizens. His wide range of accomplishments includes horticultural and botanical discoveries, musical expertise, significant geological exploration, design and construction of the first Mangere bridge, and the first European discovery of coal deposits in the Waikato. His architectural designs still stand today among the country's finest heritage buildings.
Purchas's mostly unheralded role in the years leading up to the 1861 Land Wars - and documented here in detail - grew from his close relationship with the first two Maori Kings, Te Wherowhero Patatau and Matutaera, their advisers Tamati Ngapora and Te Paea, and Kingitanga allies like Wiremu Tamihana and Rewi Maniapoto. He also achieved astonishing success in pioneer abdominal surgery, engineering and the formation of Auckland's foremost cultural institutions such as the Auckland Museum and Society of Arts.