Hincks, Thomas Dix (1767–1857), presbyterian minister, naturalist, and scholar, was born 24 June 1767 at Bachelor's Quay, Dublin, son of Edward Hincks (d. 1772), a customs officer from Chester, England. His mother's maiden name was Dix, and after the premature death of her husband she retained his post in the Custom House. Thomas was educated at an academy in Crumlin. Although he initially considered a career in medicine and was apprenticed to a Dublin apothecary in 1782, he changed his mind and entered Dublin University two years later, intending to take holy orders. He did not complete his studies and in September 1788 enrolled at the New College, Hackney, east London, a dissenting academy. In 1790 he went to Cork as an assistant to Samuel Perrot, minister of the Old Presbyterian Church, Prince's St., where Hincks was ordained in 1792. His pastoral duties were light and he started an academy at Patrick's Hill, providing public lectures in mathematics, geography, classics, history, and science. The academy was a success and led to the establishment (1803) of the Cork Institution, which quickly became the focus of the intellectual and cultural life of Cork. That same year (1803) he was elected MRIA. An advocate of civil and religious toleration, he published a pamphlet in favour of catholic emancipation (1791), a defence of revealed religion entitled Letters originally addressed to the inhabitants of Cork, in defence of revealed religion, occasioned by the circulation of Mr Paine's Age of reason in that city (1795), and promoted the Cork Institution as a non-sectarian forum of enlightenment and discussion. He established and edited the Munster Farmer's Journal (1811–20) to encourage an interest in more scientific methods of farming among local landlords.
In 1817 he moved to Fermoy, where he started a small congregation before moving to Belfast, when he was appointed classical master (1822–36) and professor of oriental languages (1822–49) at the Belfast Academical Institution. He also gave lectures to the Belfast Literary Society. A keen naturalist, he also made presentations to the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society, of which he was a founding member. Interested in botany, he wrote a paper ‘On early contributions to the flora of Ireland’ (Annals of Natural History, 6). While at Belfast he published a number of textbooks, of which his Greek–English school lexicon (1831) was especially popular and An introduction to ancient geography went into seven editions. A member of the unitarian congregation at Rosemary St., he avoided religious controversy and socialised with men of all religious persuasions. His commitment to education was considerable and he served on the committees of various Belfast educational establishments such as the Lancasterian School (est. 1814) and the Brown Street School (est. 1830). In 1834 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow. He died aged 90 at his residence at Murray's Terrace, Belfast, in February 1857.
He married (6 September 1791), at St Michael's Chester, Ann Boult (1767–1835). Like her husband, Ann Hincks was a unitarian, and much interested in botany and conchology. The couple were both buried at Killyleagh, where their eldest son was rector. They had five sons and two daughters, including Edward (qv), a noted oriental scholar, Francis (qv), Canadian politician and governor of Barbados, Thomas, rector of Derrykeighan and Hannah, an algologist (botanist), who contributed to George Dickie's (qv) Flora of Ulster (1864). Their second son, William Hincks (1794–1871), unitarian minister and naturalist, was born 16 April 1794 in Cork. He was educated in his father's school in Cork and educated for the ministry at Manchester College, York (1809–14). Returning to his father's chapel in Cork for his ordination, he went on to serve at Exeter (1816–22) and was appointed minister at Renshaw St., Liverpool (1822). His interests shifted to science and he was appointed tutor in mathematics and philosophy at his old school, Manchester College, York (1827–39). Resigning after an administrative dispute at the college, he resumed ministry work in London (1839), where he also tutored privately and edited the Inquirer, a unitarian weekly journal (1842–7).
In 1849 he was appointed professor of natural history at QCC, the same year his first wife, Maria Ann Yandel(l), died. They had married 5 August 1817 at St Michael's, Bristol, and had had eight children. He married (1852) his second wife, Sara Maria Hodges of Cork. The following year he was appointed first professor of natural history at University College, Toronto (1853). He was chosen in preference to Thomas Henry Huxley, largely, it is believed, through the influence of his brother Francis Hincks, the prominent Canadian politician. In 1887 a herbarium was founded at the university to house his extensive natural history collections, latterly incorporated into the Royal Ontario Museum. He was president of the Canadian Institute (1869–71) and edited the Canadian Journal, to which he contributed articles on botany, zoology, economics, and zoology. A prominent member of Toronto's unitarian congregation, he died 10 September 1871 in Toronto.
His son Thomas David Hincks (1818–99), unitarian minister and naturalist, was born 15 July 1818 in Exeter and educated at Belfast Academical Institution, at the University of London (BA 1840), and, following his father, at Manchester College, from which he entered the unitarian ministry. He served as a minister at Cork (1839), Dublin (1842), Warrington (1844), Exeter (1846), Sheffield (1852), and Leeds (1855). He was noted in Leeds for his educational and philanthropic work until he suffered a nervous and physical breakdown in 1868. His health remained poor after a year's leave of absence and, after failing to regain his voice, he was compelled to resign from the ministry in 1869.
He had a keen interest in zoology from an early age and attended the seventh meeting of the British Association at Liverpool in 1837. His love of natural history was encouraged by his good friend George Allman (qv) (1812–98) and he became greatly interested in the study of zoophytes. His chief dredging work was done in Devonshire and the estuary of Salcombe. He published many papers in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History between 1851 and 1893. He devoted himself to the study of hydrozoa and published A history of the British hydroid zoophytes (1868), which was widely regarded as the standard work on the subject. Turning his attention to polyzoa, he published A history of the British marine polyzoa (1880) which was well received. His work was distinguished by its attention to detail and systematic arrangement. He was elected fellow of the Royal Society (June 1872); his collections were later presented to the Museum of Natural History, London.
He married Elizabeth Allan, of Warrington, and had two daughters. He died 25 January 1899 at Clifton. His library was bought from his wife that same year, and is located in the library of the Marine Biological Association, UK.