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Harvey was of Scottish descent and was educated at the Royal Academical Institute at Belfast. He became an ordained minister in the Presbyterian ministry in 1844. Harvey served at the John Street Presbyterian Church, Maryport, Cumberland, England until he emigrated to St. John's in 1852 with his bride Sarah Anne Browne. He served at St. Andrews Free Presbyterian Church in St. John's. His sermons there become an inspiration as a lecturer and a writer where he had written over 900 articles in a twenty-four year period that was published in the Montreal Gazette under the pen name Delta. Harvey is the co-founder of the Evening Mercury newspaper.
Harvey had studied many aspects of Newfoundland's natural history, most notably the habits of the giant squid. One species, Architeuthis harveyi, was named in recognition of his work. It was largely through his efforts that the giant squids became known to British and American zoologists.
Harvey's interests in Newfoundland were varied, he had called for the creation of a cross-island railroad, he was president of the St. John's Athenaeum Society, he pressed for the development of mining in Newfoundland and he also catalogued the rocks, birds and wild flowers of the island. In 1885 he published the book Text Book of Newfoundland History. His best-known and most prominent book was Newfoundland, The Oldest British Colony which he co-authored with Joseph Hutton and published in 1883. In 1886 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and of the Royal Society of Canada in 1891. Harvey was awarded the honorary degree of LL.D. from McGill University in 1891.
Harvey served as Secretary to the Newfoundland Fisheries Commission and had written and lectured a remarkable document entitled The Artificial Propagation of Marine Food Fishes and Edible Crustaceans, that was published in the Royal Society's transactions for 1892 — 1893, Vol. IX.
- "Moses Harvey". Dictionary of Canadian Biography (online ed.). University of Toronto Press. 1979–2005.
- ITIS Report on Taxonomic Serial No.: 82393
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