S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science




Barber, Mr Frederick Hugh (mammal collection, insect collection)

Born: 8 January 1847, Graaff-Reinet, South Africa.
Died: 19 May 1919, Eldoret, Kenya.
Mr Frederick Hugh Barber

Frederick Hugh Barber, known as "Freddy", was the eldest of the two sons of the well-known naturalist Mary E. Barber* (born Bowker) and her husband, frontier pioneer Frederick William Barber. Freddy grew up in Grahamstown and received his education at St. Andrews College. From about 1870 he prospected along the Vaal River for some time and then joined the Frontier Armed and Mounted Police. Ending his service in 1875, he spent the next 10 years travelling and hunting all over southern Africa, starting with a hunting trip to the Victoria Falls. His journal of this trip was published in 1960 as Zambezia and Matabeleland in the seventies.... He also explored Mashonaland (in Zimbabwe), Namibia, Angola, and Botswana, becoming a friend of both King Kgama III (Botswana) and Chief Lobengula of the Ndebele. In February 1884 Freddy, with his brother Henry M. ("Hal") Barber* and their cousin Graham H. Barber travelled to the De Kaap Valley in Mpumalanga. They discovered payable gold near present Barberton and the new town established there was named in their honour. In 1886, when gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand, Freddy went to the newly founded Johannesburg and was involved in floating the Ferreira Mine and later the Simmer and Jack Company. After a successful spell in the financial world he returned to the Eastern Cape to farm, also becoming active in civic affairs. In 1915 he followed his brother to Kenya to farm and died there a few years later.

Primarily a hunter, prospecter and explorer, Freddy also had an interest in natural history and geography, though his contributions to these fields were modest. As a young man he collected butterflies and in 1876 sent a consignment from the Crocodile River and the country northwards to the Zambesi (now Zimbabwe) to Roland Trimen* at the South African Museum. Trimen later acknowledged these donations in the preface to his book South African butterflies... (1887-1889. Freddy and Hal also collected plants on their travels and sent some to Kew Gardens. Freddy's main interest, however, was in the larger mammals and he built up a very fine collection of heads and horns. Part or all of this collection, described as "a fine collection of mounted heads of East African antelopes" was exhibited in the Albany Museum in 1897. It was probably only on loan, for he eventually sold his collection to the New Zealand Zoological Society in 1909.

Freddy was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and in 1897 was a member of the Geological Society of South Africa. In 1906 (but not thereafter) he served on the management committee of the Albany Museum. In 1912 he wrote an article titled "Is South Africa drying up?" for the Agricultural Journal of the Union of South Africa, (Vol. 4, pp. 662-666). In it he reviewed the current state of the Kalahari, and quoted evidence that the region was drying up from an article by J.F. Wilkinson published in 1865.


List of sources:
Cape of Good Hope. Report of the committee of the Albany Museum, 1897-1908.

Cape of Good Hope. Report of the trustees of the South African Museum, 1876.

Cohen, A. Mary Elizabeth Barber, the Bowkers and South African prehistory. South African Archaeological Bulletin, 1999, Vol. 54, pp. 120-127.

Dictionary of South African biography, Vol. 2, 1972.

Geological Society of South Africa. Transactions, 1897, Vol. 2, list of members.

Men of the times: Pioneers of the Transvaal and glimpses of South Africa. Johannesburg: Transvaal Publishing Company, 1905.

Trimen, Roland. South African butterflies: A monograph of the extra-tropical species (3 vols). London: Truebner & Co., 1887-1889.

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


Compiled by: C. Plug


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