S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Gray, Mr Charles Elias (animal disease control)

Born: 10 April 1864, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Died: 11 June 1937, St Helier, Jersey, United Kingdom.
Mr Charles Elias Gray

Charles Elias Gray, veterinary surgeon and telegraphist, was the son of Andrew Gray and his wife Madeline, born Burnett. He entered the Post and Telegraph Service in Edinburgh in 1879, at the age of 16, to be trained as a telegraphist. As a volunteer in the 24th Middlesex Rifles he spent a year in upper Egypt and the Sudan during 1884 and 1885, where he participated in the relief of Khartoum. Leaving the telegraph service in 1886 to study at the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College, he qualified (MRCVS) in 1890. He then went to the USA to seek his fortune, but not satisfied he returned to England and set out for South Africa late in 1895, hoping to find work as a veterinary surgeon. Not being successful, he reverted to his original training and became a telegraphist with the British South Africa (Chartered) Company in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in January 1896. Two months later an unknown disease broke out and the authorities approached Duncan Hutcheon*, Chief Veterinary Officer of the Cape Colony, for assistance. He drew their attention to Grays presence in their country, with the result that the latter was appointed acting government veterinary surgeon in March 1896. He diagnosed rinderpest and his report and warning to Hutcheon was crucial in the eventual campaign to eradicate this disease from southern Africa.

After establishing a control programme, Gray was drafted into the army to help suppress the Matabele rebellion of 1896. After the war he had to revert once more to telegraphy to earn a living and became postmaster in Victoria (later Fort Victoria, now Masvingo, Zimbabwe). There he was again employed as government veterinary surgeon late in 1896. The next year he spent some time in the Cape Colony on special rinderpest duty. He became head of the Veterinary Department of Rhodesia, a position he held to 1905. When the region was troubled by East Coast fever during 1901 to 1904 he found that he lacked knowledge of protozoology and took a brief post-graduate course in pathology and bacteriology at the Royal Veterinary College in London. In May 1904 he represented Rhodesia at the Inter-Colonial Veterinary Conference on animal diseases in South Africa. That same year he published two papers, on inoculation against East Coast Fever and against Horse-sickness, in the Journal of Comparative Pathology and Therapeutics. In April 1905 he succeeded S. Stockman* as principal veterinary officer for the Transvaal Colony. After the formation of the Union of South Africa he became the country's first principal veterinary officer.

Grey reported on his investigations of various stock diseases in the Annual Report of the principal veterinary surgeon (Transvaal Colony) and later of the Veterinary Division of the Department of Agriculture of the Union. In 1905 he provided the first reliable information on contagious abortion in South African cattle, after a serious outbreak near Johannesburg. His paper, "Contagious abortion", was published in the Transvaal Agricultural Journal (Vol. 4, pp. 22-25) in October that year. During his early years in the Transvaal he published articles on various other veterinary topics in the same journal, for example "Scab and its eradication" (1905), and "Strangles and glanders" (1908). He also wrote East Coast Fever: A historical review (African Book Co., 1908) and Rinderpest campaign in East Africa: Final report, Rinderpest Commission (London, 1919).

Gray has been described as "a little Scot with shaggy eyebrows and moustache, a pair of twinkling eyes - for him everything was the best in the best of all possible worlds" (Cranefield, 1991, pp. 17-18). He served on the council of the Transvaal Veterinary Medical Association from 1907 and was its president from 1911 to 1914. During 1920/1 he became acting first president of the South African Veterinary Association. He was furthermore a foundation member of the Transvaal Biological Society in 1907 and served as its President in 1909. That year he also chaired the Pan-African Veterinary Conference in the Transvaal. During World War I (1914-1918) he served as sanitation specialist to the South African Veterinary Corps with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He retired from this post in May 1921 and settled in Jersey. He was married to May Cairns, but they had no children.

List of sources:

Cape of Good Hope, Department of Agriculture. Report of Proceedings at Inter-Colonial Veterinary Conference on Animal Diseases in South Africa. Parliamentary Report G87-1904.

Charles Elias Gray. WikiTree. Downloaded from https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Gray-5945 on 2 March 2017.

Cranefield, P.F. Science and empire: East Coast Fever in Rhodesia and the Transvaal. Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Curson, H.H. The veterinary profession in South Africa: (3) Professional Veterinary Medical Societies - (a) Transvaal Veterinary Medical Association. Journal of the South African Veterinary Medical Association, 1931, Vol. 2(1), pp. 3-22.

C[urson], H.H. Obituary: Charles Elias Gray. Journal of the South African Veterinary Medical Association, 1937, Vol. 8, pp. 177-179.

Google scholar. http://scholar.google.co.za Publications by C.E. Gray.

Henning, M.W. Animal diseases in South Africa (2 vols). Johannesburg: CNA, 1932.

Janse, A.J.T. A short history of the South African Biological Society. South African Biological Society Pamphlets, 1939, No. 10, pp. 49-58.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to C.E. Gray.

Posthumus, P.J. Past Veterinarians in South Africa, Vol. 1, 10th edition, [1992].

South African who's who, 1908.

Transvaal Agricultural Journal, 1905-1909, Vol. 3-7.

Transvaal civil service list, 1906.

Transvaal public service list, 1909.

Union of South Africa. Public service list, 1914.

Compiled by: D.W. Verwoerd