In 1874 Professor Alexander Bickerton became the first professor of Chemistry at Canterbury College. He was acknowledged as a brilliant teacher, remaining in this role until 1902. Ernest Rutherford was his most famous pupil. Professor Bickerton was a somewhat unconventional figure in early Christchurch.
He built a large house, Wainoni, with the aim of establishing a new form of society. This was unsuccessful, so he turned the property into a garden where thousands came to watch performances, including naval battles with real explosives, shipwrecks and rescues staged on an artificial lake.
Professor Bickerton’s controversial views on many topics including university reform and the institution of marriage finally led to him being sacked from the University. He returned to England in 1910 and died in 1929. The year before his death he was made Professor Emeritus of Canterbury College.