S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Gundry, Prof Philip George (physics, astronomy)

Born: 30 August 1877, London, England.
Died: 25 September 1929, Pretoria, South Africa.

Philip George Gundry, physicist, was educated at the University College School, London, and studied at the University College (1894-1896) and the Royal College of Science (1896-1900) in London, obtaining the degree Bachelor of Science (BSc) in 1899. After a spell as lecturer in physics at the University College of South Wales, Cardiff, from 1900 to 1903 he continued his education at the University of Berlin and the University of Goettingen, Germany. The latter institution awarded him the degrees Master of Arts (MA) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in physics, the latter with a thesis entitled Ueber die mittlere spannung von electroden unter der wirkung von wechselstrzomen (1905, 40p). He also published a paper, 'Ueber erzwungene Schwingungen eines polarisierbaren Quecksilbertropfens', in the Annalen der Physik (1904). From 1905 to 1908 he was professor of physics and mechanics at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester.

Gundry then came to South Africa to take up an appointment as professor of physics and mathematics (later only physics) at the Transvaal University College in Pretoria. In 1909 and 1910 he was examiner in applied mathematics for the second mining examination of the University of the Cape of Good Hope. The university admitted him to its MA degree in 1914, on the basis of his degrees from the University of Goettingen.

During the campaign against German South West Africa (1914-1915) in World War I Gundry served as a staff-sergeant in the headquarters staff of the South African armed forces. Later in the war, during 1917-1918, he joined the scientific staff of the Royal Air Force with the rank of captain and was responsible for several improvements in the speed and accuracy of flying. In the course of this work he was involved in more than one crash. Shortly after his return from the war he married Miss Ruth Frost, who was on the staff of the Pretoria High School for Girls. Around that time he published a paper on "The effects of elevation of temperature and altitude of aerodrome in the taking-off of aeroplanes" in both the South African Journal of Science (1920, Vol. 17, pp. 235-248) and in the Aeronautical Journal (1921).

Gundry's interest in astronomy led him to become a member of the Astronomical Society of South Africa in October 1924, while at some time he served also as president of the Pretoria Astronomical Association. He convinced the council of the Transvaal University College to fund the building of an observatory in the college grounds and equipped it with a 127 mm Zeiss equatorial refractor which he discovered among some laboratory equipment in the Boys' High School. The observatory also had a 76 mm transit instrument and a chronograph.

Gundry was a Fellow of the Physical Society, a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and an associate of the Royal College of Science. In 1913 he became a member of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science, serving as president of Section A in 1926. His presidential address dealt with "The problem of atmospheric electricity" and was published in the South African Journal of Science (1926, Vol. 23, pp. 16-25). His genial personality and unflagging energy endeared him to friends and students alike.

List of sources:

Google scholar. http://scholar.google.co.za Publications by P.G. Gundry.

Gundry, Philip George. In J. Venn, Alumni Cantabrigiensis: A biographical list of all known students. Vol. 2. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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

National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

Professor Philip G. Gundry, PhD, BSc. Journal of the Astronomical Society of South Africa, January 1930, Vol. 2(4), pp. 205-206.

South African Association for the Advancement of Science. Report, 1918, list of members.

South African Journal of Science, 1920, Vol. 17 and 1926, Vol. 3: Papers by Gundry.

University of the Cape of Good Hope. Calendar, 1910/11, 1911/12, 1916/7.

Who was who, Vol. 3, 2nd ed. London: Adam & Black, 1967.

Compiled by: C. Plug