S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science




Hochstetter, Ferdinand Christian von (geology)

Born: 30 April 1829, Esslingen, Germany .
Died: 18 July 1884, Ober-Doebling, Vienna, Austria.

Ferdinand von Hochstetter, an Austrian geologist, was attached to the expedition around the world of the Austrian frigate Novara in 1857-1859. Another member of the expedition was the horticulturalist Anton Jellinek*. The ship sailed from Trieste on 30 April 1857 and visited the Cape for some three weeks that same year. Von Hochstetter travelled through Paarl, Stellenbosch, Wellington, Bain's Kloof, Genadendal, Caledon and Sir Lowry's Pass. He met and discussed the geology of the south-western Cape with Andrew Wyley* and Dr R.N. Rubidge*, receiving a collection of Bokkeveld fossils from the latter.

Von Hochstetter wrote a short account of the geology of the Cape, "Beitraege zur Geologie des Caplandes", which was published in his three volume description of the expedition's geological work, Reise der Oesterreichischen Fregatte Novara um die erde in den Jahren 1857, 1858, 1859..., Geologischer Theil (1864-1866, Vol. 2, pp. 19-30). He regarded the geological map and sections of A.G. Bain* as providing a good general view of the geological structure of the Cape and used them as basis for his own geological sketch map. However, he thought that Bain's interpretation of the stratigraphy was wrong in some respects and made the necessary alterations to his own map. One of these changes, based both on his own observations and on Rubidge's views, was his correlation of the Table Mountain Group with the Witteberg Group north of Ceres - an error that was given weight by his reputation as a geologist and hence persisted for many years. In other respects, however, he improved on Bain's map and was able to add some additional details.

Von Hochstetter became Professor of Mineralogy at the University of Vienna in 1860, and director of the mineral collections in the Natural History Museum, Vienna, in 1877. He published many papers and monographs on the geology of Austria and other parts of the world. However, one of his special interests was the geology, geography and natural history of New Zealand. Between 1859 and 1865 he published ten papers dealing with the geology and other aspects of that country, as well as several books: Neu-Seeland (1863); New zeeland; its physical geography, geology and natural history (1864); Geological and topographical atlas of New Zealand (1864) and, in explanation of the latter, The geology of New Zealand (1864). The last two were compiled in collaboration with Dr A. Petermann. The English titles were all translations of publications originally written in German. Mount Hochstetter in New Zealand was named in his honour.


List of sources:
Corstorphine, G.S. The history of stratigraphical investigation in South Africa. Report of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science, 1904, pp. 145-181.

Debus, A.G. (Ed.) World who's who in science. Chicago: Marquis, 1968.

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

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

Rogers, A.W. The pioneers of South African geology and their work. Transactions of the Geological Society of South Africa, 1937, Annexure to Vol. 39, pp. 1-139.

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


Compiled by: C. Plug


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