S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science




Grey*, Dr George (geology, palaeontology)

Born: Date not known, Place not known.
Died: Date not known, Place not known.

Dr George Grey (sometimes spelled Gray), medical practitioner and naturalist at Cradock in the 1870's, should not be confused with George R. Grey* who was active in geology and exploration in the Transvaal and further north in the late 1890's.

Dr George Grey qualified as a licentiate of the Apothecaries' Society of London (LSA) in 1841. Later he studied medicine at Edinburgh and qualified as Doctor of Medicine (MD) and member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (MRCS) in 1854. By 1862 he had settled in Cradock, Cape Colony, where he was attached to the British Army. He remained there for many years. In 1875 he applied for an appointment as district surgeon, but he was licensed to practice medicine in the Cape only in September 1879.

In January 1870 a letter from Grey was read at a meeting of the Albany Natural History Society in Grahamstown. It was accompanied by a collection of fossil fish remains from the coalfields of Newcastle, England, which he had received from two Englishmen, Dr Phillipson and T.P. Barkas, FGS. Grey also sent the society a piece of slate from Cradock which contained minute bivalve shells. (He should not be confused with the British zoologist, Dr [J.O.] Gray, FRS, who's opinions were often cited at meetings of the Albany Natural History Society in 1869). At a subsequent meeting of the society in October 1872 mention was made of a small sample of highly bituminous coal from the Stormberg near Cradock which Grey had sent to J. Hellier*.

Dr Grey published an account of "A climb up the Thebus Berg" (now Teebus, a mountain some 80 km north of Cradock) in the Cape Monthly Magazine (Series 2, 1871, Vol. 3, pp. 114-118). By this time he was a Fellow of the Geological Society of Edinburgh. Two geological communications by him, dating from 1870 and 1871, were sent to T.R. Jones* and added to the latter's collection of geological manuscripts pertaining to South Africa. The first of these dealt with fossils from Cradock and elsewhere. The second comprised specimens and notes and was communicated by Jones, under Grey's name, as "Remarks on some specimens from South Africa" to the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society (1871, Vol. 27(1), pp. 49-52).

In 1874 Grey published a paper, "Herb poisoning at the Cape of Good Hope" in the Pharmaceutical Journal and Transactions (London), in which he alluded to an outbreak of tulip poisoning (Family Iridaceae) in the Middelburg district of the Cape. The poisonous nature of these plants was already well known at the time.

By the time that the British palaeontologist H.G. Seeley* visited South Africa in 1889 Dr Grey had died or left the colony, though he was still listed in the Medical and pharmacy register of the Cape in 1893. He was remembered for having found many fossils in the Tarka, a region north-east of Cradock. His donations to the Albany Museum included fossil vertebrae of Dicynodon from Cradock, other reptilian remains, and some plant fossils from Stormberg (near Molteno).

Grey was married to Mary Frances Cook (1839-1886), with whom he had a daughter and three sons. His youngest son was born at Cradock in 1872.


List of sources:
Cape Monthly Magazine, Series 2, 1871, Vol. 3, pp. 114-118: A climb up the Thebus Berg; 1872, Vol. 5, pp. 315-318: Albany Natural History Society.

Cape of Good Hope. Catalogue of the natural history collections of the Albany Museum, Grahamstown (Appendix to Parliamentary Report G24-'83). Cape Town: W.A. Richards & Sons, 1883.

Cape of Good Hope Government Cazette, 16 September 1862, and 9 January 1885: Lists of medical practitioners in the Cape Colony.

Dr George Grey: 1820 Settlers to South Africa. Retrieved from http://www.1820settlers.com/genealogy/getperson.php?personID=I10868&tree=master on 21 March 2017.

Draper, D. Catalogue of the "Rupert Jones" collection of papers and manuscripts. Transactions of the Geological Society of South Africa, 1898, Vol. 4, pp. 77-86.

Grahamstown Journal, 11 February 1870, p. 3: Albany Natural History Society.

Grocott's Penny Mail, 8 August 1889, p. 2: Our diary.

Hall, A.L. A bibliography of South African geology to the end of 1920. Pretoria: Geological Survey, Memoir No. 18, 1922.

Henning, M.W. Animal diseases in South Africa (Vol. 2, pp. 764-776). Central News Agency, 1932.

Medical and pharmacy register for the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope, 1893.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to Grey, Dr George.

Royal Society of London. Catalogue of scientific papers [1800-1900]. London: Royal Society, 1867-1925.


Compiled by: C. Plug


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