S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Herman, Dr Christian Lawrence (medical sciences)

Born: 1857, Cape Town, South Africa.
Died: 1940, Cape Town, South Africa.

C. Lawrence Herman was the eldest son of Johannes Z. Herman and like his father became a medical practitioner. He was educated at the South African College, Cape Town, and passed the matriculation examination of the University of the Cape of Good Hope in 1876. Thereafter he qualified as Bachelor of Medicine (MB) and Master of Surgery (CM) at the University of Edinburgh in 1881 and as a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (MRCS) the next year, having spent some study time also in Berlin and Vienna. In Edinburgh he was a leading figure among the group of about twenty South African medical students and participated in efforts to establish a South African Students' Union there. (The Union was eventually founded in 1892). After his return to Cape Town in 1882 he participated in forming the South African College Union of past and present students in 1886, to promote the interests of the college. On the basis of his medical qualifications the University of the Cape of Good Hope admitted him to the MB degree in 1883.

Herman was licensed to practice in the Cape Colony in December 1882 and set up shop in Burg Street. He held the rank of surgeon-captain in the Duke of Edinburgh's Own Volunteer Rifles and served as a surgeon of the ear at the Free Dispensary in Cape Town. However, his interests centered mainly around medical organisation, medical education and public health. Very soon after his return he conceived the idea of creating a South African Medical Association. With the enthusiastic support of another young medical man, J.H.M. Beck*, and the influence and hard work of the more senior Dr H.A. Ebden*, the association was founded in July 1883. Herman served as its secretary for the first two years and has been given the credit for keeping it alive during that time. He was a member of its council for 1888/9, but during that period the association ceased to function.

In 1885 Herman wrote to Dr W.G. Atherstone* and to Professor P.D. Hahn* requesting information on the healthy climate of the Cape Colony for the Indian and Colonial Exhibition, to be held in London the next year. He played an active role in preparing the colony's contribution to this exhibition. In 1886 he wrote an article on "The Cape as a health resort" for the Official handbook of the Cape of Good Hope (pp. 155-158), edited by John Noble*. A revised and much expanded version, "South Africa - its climate and health resorts" was included in the next edition, Illustrated official handbook of the Cape and South Africa (1893, pp. 537-567). It dealt mainly with the climate of the sub-continent, discussed region by region. Meanwhile, assisted by others, he had published a monograph on Health; the voyage to South Africa and sojourn there (London, 1891), which also dealt mainly with South Africa as a health resort.

Herman was elected a member of the South African Philosophical Society in February 1883, remaining a member to 1891. Many years later he became a member of its successor, the Royal Society of South Africa, and contributed a "Note on carbolic acid as a fixative for histological preparations" to its Transactions for 1919-1920. In 1892 he was president of the Cape of Good Hope Branch of the British Medical Association. His presidential address, delivered at the annual meeting in September that year and published as a pamphlet, dealt with "The state in its relation to public health". At the second South African Medical Congress, held in Cape Town during the last few days of 1893, he delivered an address on public health that was a masterly survey of the defects and shortcomings of medical legislation in South Africa. He served on the Leprosy Commission during 1894-1895 and as a member of the Colonial Medical Council to the beginning of 1896.

After his retirement from practice in 1900 Herman's medical registration lapsed, but he continued to devote himself to matters relating to public health and medical education. He appears to have been partly responsible for the transfer of mental patients from Robben Island to the mainland in 1913, and for the transfer of leprosy patients from the island to Pretoria in 1931. In 1926 he was again listed in the Medical, Dental and Pharmacy Directory of South Africa. He was an active freemason, serving as presiding master of the Lodge de Goede Hope, Cape Town, during 1886-1887. A Capetonian in heart and soul, he was much attached to the city and keen to preserve its buildings as historical monuments.

List of sources:
Bate, O.H. The Lodge De Goede Hoop, revised by T.N. Cranstoun-Day (Appendix V). Cape Town, 1972.

Burrows, E.H. A history of medicine in South Africa up to the end of the nineteenth century. Cape Town: Balkema, 1958.

Cape of Good Hope. Report of the Colonial Medical Council, 1896, p. 1.

Cape of Good Hope Government Gazette, 9 January 1885, pp. 41-45: List of licensed medical practitioners in the Cape Colony...

Grahamstown Journal, 11 August 1882, p. 3: Cape students in Scotland.

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

Medical, Dental and Pharmacy Register of South Africa, 1926/7. Pietermaritzburg: Natal Witness, 1926.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to Herman, Christian Lawrence/Herman, C.L.

Noble, J. (ed.) Official handbook of the Cape of Good Hope, 1886. Cape Town: Saul Solomon.

Noble, J. (ed.) Illustrated official handbook of the Cape and South Africa. Cape Town: Juta, 1893.

Ritchie, W. The history of the South African College, 1829-1918. Cape Town: T. Maskew Miller, 1918.

Royal Society of South Africa. Transactions, 1917, Vol. 6, list of members; 1919-1920, Vol. 8, paper by Herman.

South African bibliography to the year 1925. London: Mansell, 1979.

South African medical directory for 1897. Cape Town: Cape Times, 1897.

South African Medical Journal, [Series 1], January 1884, Vol. 1, p. 2, Advertissement of the South African Medical Association; 13 October 1886, Vol. 2, p. 57, leading article; 13 October 1886, Vol. 2, pp. 58-59, and 28 July 1888, Vol. 4, pp. 26-27, South African Medical Association; [Series 2], December 1895, Vol. 3, p. 235, list of members of the CGH Branch of the BMA.

South African Philosophical Society. Transactions, 1883-1891, Vol. 3-8: Lists of members.

University of the Cape of Good Hope. Calendar, 1884/5.

Venter, R.J. Bibliography of regional meteorological literature. Vol. 1. Southern Africa, 1486-1948. Pretoria: Weather Bureau, 1949.

Compiled by: C. Plug