S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science




Krauss, Dr Christian Ferdinand Friedrich (geology, palaeontology, plant collection)

Born: 9 July 1812, Stuttgart, Germany.
Died: 15 September 1891, Stuttgart, Germany.
Dr Christian Ferdinand Friedrich Krauss

C. Ferdinand F. Krauss, German scientist, traveller and collector, was apprenticed to an apothecary and worked as a pharmacist for a while. From 1834 he studied mineralogy, zoology, chemistry and medicine, first briefly at the University of Tuebingen and subsequently at the University of Heidelberg, where he was awarded the degree Doctor of Philosophy in 1836. The next year Baron C.F.H. von Ludwig* visited Stuttgart to donate an important collection of Cape plants and animals to the local Naturalien-kabinet (Natural History Museum). Krauss assisted him in classifying the material and accepted Ludwig's invitation to accompany him to the Cape. First, however, based on a study of the museum's collection, he published a small monograph, Beitrag zur Kenntniss der Corallineen und Zoophyten der Suedsee... (Stuttgart, 1837), with illustrations of new species. In November 1837 he set out on a state subsidised collecting expedition to the Cape, travelling via Leiden and London. In both cities he continued his preparatory studies, visiting the British Museum and other scientific institutions. With von Ludwig he reached the Cape in May 1838. Krauss stayed in Cape Town as the Baron's guest for six months and they became firm friends. During this time he made a detailed study of the geology, flora and fauna around Cape Town, particularly the biology of the intertidal zone, in which he had a particular interest.

Krauss set out on his expedition into the interior by ox-waggon on 22 November 1838. He travelled over Sir Lowry's Pass to Genadendal, and from there visited the mineral springs at Kogmanskloof. From Genadendal he continued southwards via Caledon to Cape Agulhas (24 December), then to Swellendam, eastwards to Mossel Bay, and on to George (8 January 1839). Here he spent a week collecting in the forests of the Outeniqua Mountains and along the coast. After visiting the Cango Caves on horseback he left George on 22 January for Knysna. There he collected molluscs and insects along the lagoon, and visited Plettenberg Bay. On 19 February he left Knysna and with great difficulty negotiated the much-feared Duiwelsberg Pass into the Langkloof. While travelling eastwards along the Langkloof he deviated to the warm springs at Toorwater and climbed Antoniesberg. At Jagersbos (1 March) he turned south over the Kareedouwberg to the Moravian mission station at Koksbosch (now Clarkson) and on to Driefontein. After spending three weeks in this region he moved on to Uitenhage, which he reached on 11 April. He stayed with the plant collector Joachim Brehm*, and paid a visit to W.L. von Buchenroder*, who lived on a farm on the Swartkops River. While travelling to various places in the district he collected, among others, fossils of Cretaceous age from the rocks of the Uitenhage Group. On 26 April he set off again on a visit to the Karoo, which was in the grip of a drought, and returned to Uitenhage on 23 May. Sending his collections to Cape Town he travelled to Port Natal (later Durban) on board the Mazeppa, with the naturalists J.A. Wahlberg* and Louis Delegorgue* as fellow passengers. Arriving in Natal on 10 June Krauss stayed in a reed hut outside the Voortrekker camp at Congella (Durban), collecting intensively and methodically both in the bush and along the seashore. He found the marine life on the wave-washed reefs of Durban Bluff (known to him as Natal Point) particularly rich and beautiful, encountering many new species, and even new genera of molluscs and other marine invertebrates. He made several excursions inland, one to Table Mountain near Pietermaritzburg with W. Gueinzius*. The specimens he collected included ethnographic material; also many birds, but although the skins went to the Stuttgart Museum the collection was never properly studied by a recognised ornithologist.

From 1 August to 17 September 1839 Krauss visited Pietermaritzburg. Thereafter he collected mainly around the mouth of the Umlazi River, just south of Durban. Northwards he travelled as far as the Umgeni River, where he collected land and freshwater snails. From 24 to 28 October he joined a deputation sent by the Volksraad of the Voortrekkers to conclude an agreement with the Zulu chief Mpande, who lived between the Umhloti and Umvoti Rivers. November and December 1839 were spent collecting at Congella. Early in January 1840 he went on a brief trip inland to investigate the coal deposits that had been found in the foothills of the Drakensberg, in the upper reaches of the Bushmans River. In the shales amongst the coal-bearing beds he found some fossil leaves which he identified as belonging to the Glossopteris flora - the first known find of this important group of fossil plants in South Africa. He reported on the coal deposits to the Volksraad in Pietermaritzburg. His friendhip with the Voortrekkers was demonstrated in an article, "Der Krieg der ausgewanderten Kolonisten mit den Kaffern", published in Das Aussland in 1841, in which he supported their cause.

Krauss returned to Cape Town by ship in February 1840 and in April that year returned to Europe with his collections on board the Vernon, one of the first ships to be fitted with an auxillary steam-powered engine. During a stay of a few months in London he sold some 500 plants, duplicate molluscs and other specimens, mainly to the British Museum, to defray expenses. Back in Stuttgart he was appointed to the Natural History Museum, where he worked on his collections and in 1856 became its director. His thorough research, extending over many years, led to many publications dealing with his South African expedition and collections. Two papers in the Berghaus Annalen der Erd-, Voelker- und Staatenkunde dealt with his journeys to and from the Cape: "Physikalische Betrachtungen und Bemerkungen auf eine Reise von England nach dem Kap der guten Hoffnung" (1839), and "Reise vom Vorgebirge der guten Hoffnung nach England" (1840). Two monographs dealt with his zoological collections. Die suedafrikanischen Crustaceen... (Stuttgart, 1843) dealt with the then 120 known species of South African Malacostraca (woodlice, crabs, prawns, shrimps, lobsters and crayfish), including many new species, with notes on their way of life and geographical distribution. This was followed by Die Suedafrikanischen Mollusken... (Stuttgart, 1848), a description of the molluscs of the Cape and Natal, their geographical distribution, and illustrated descriptions of about 80 new species. It was based mainly on his own collection and that of J.A. Wahlberg in Stockholm. A supplement, "Neue Kapsche Mollusken..." was published in the Archiv fuer Naturgeschichte the same year. Krauss was the first trained naturalist to study South African molluscs, and certainly the first to study them in the field. Hence his visit and publications proved to be a turning-point in South African malacology. Unfortunately the value of his work was marred by numerous incorrect localities, suggesting that his labelling of specimens was not up to standard. He has none the less been described as the "father of southern African malacology" (Herbert & Waren, 1999) and "the undoubted pioneer of South African malacology" (Kilburn, 1999). Several species of land and marine molluscs were named after him, including the land snails Metachatina kraussi and Gulella kraussi. Most of his collection of molluscs in Stuttgart is believed to have been destroyed during World War II.

His paper "Ueber die Quellen des suedlichen Afrika" (Neue Jahrbuch der Mineralogie, Geologie und Petrefactenkunde, 1843) dealt with the country's natural springs. The geology and palaeontology of the Eastern Cape were described in two papers, "Ueber die geologischen Verhaeltnisse der oestlichen Kueste des Caplandes, mit besonderer Beruecksichtigung der in der Algoa-bay vorkommenden Kreide-formation und deren Petrefacten" (Bericht ueber die Versammlung der Gesellschaft fuer Naturfreunde, Mainz, 1842), and "Ueber einige Petrefacten aus der unteren Kreide des Kaplandes" (Nova Acta Leopodinia, 1850). In the latter paper he described seven new mollusc species of Cretaceous age from the Uitenhage Group, all bivalves. His description of the geology of the Cape is arranged mainly by rock types: sandstones, clay-slates, granite, conglomerate, limestone, etc., and includes the first proper description of the Cretaceous deposits and fossils of the Eastern Cape.

His plants were studied and described by various specialists, and enumerated in "Pflanzen des Cap- und Natal-Landes" in the journal Flora (in 15 parts, 1844-1846). In the latter year all the enumerations were reprinted under the title Beitraege zur Flora des Cap- und Natallandes - the first substantial work dealing with the flora of Natal. The collection contained some 2300 species (mostly flowering plants but including 56 lichens), of which 340 species (and 34 genera) were described as new. The genus Kraussia was named after him by W.H. Harvey*, as were many plant species by others.

Krauss's unpublished notes on Cape Town were translated by O.H. Spohr and published in the Quarterly Bulletin of the South African Library in 1966 as "A description of Cape Town and its way of life, 1838-1840". His unbiased description of the Zulus and their lifestyle was also translated into English by Spohr and published in Africana Notes and News in 1969. An English translation (also by Spohr) of his Travel journal: Cape to Zululand... was published in 1973.

Krauss was a brilliant and respected scholar, a member of some twenty-two societies and academies in Germany and elsewhere, and a regular attendant at international conferences. He continued to publish zoological and palaeontological papers to about 1871. In 1886 the University of Tuebingen awarded him an honorary doctorate. He was furthermore raised to the nobility by the King of Wuerttemburg in 1880, which entitled him to call himself Von Krauss.


List of sources:
Barnard, K.H. Personal names in South African conchology. Cape Town: Conchological Society of Southern Africa, 1965.

Bayer, A.W. Discovering the Natal flora. Natalia 1974, No. 4, pp. 42-48.

Clancey, P.A. A one-time Mecca for ornithologists. Natalia, 1975, Vol. 5, pp. 29-35.

Dictionary of South African biography, Vol. 2, 1972 (See Von Krauss).

Doidge, E.M. South African fungi and lichens to the end of 1945. Bothalia, 1950, Vol. 5, pp. 1-1094 (see p. 29).

Griffiths, C.L. Crustacean systematics in South Africa - status and historical overview. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa, 1999, Vol. 54(1), pp. 43-52.

Gunn, M. & Codd, L.E. Botanical exploration of southern Africa. Cape Town: Balkema, 1981.

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

Herbert, D. & Kilburn, D. Field guide to the land snails and slugs of eastern South Africa. Pietermaritzburg: Natal Museum, 2004.

Herbert, D.G. & Waren, A. South African Mollusca described by Ferdinand Krauss... Annals of the Natal Museum, 1999, Vol. 40, pp. 205-243.

Hutchinson, J. A botanist in southern Africa. London: Gawthorn, 1946.

Kilburn, R. A brief history of marine malacology in South Africa. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa, 1999, Vol. 54(1), pp. 31-41.

Kilburn, R. & Rippey, E. Sea shells of southern Africa. Johannesburg: Macmillan, 1982.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to C.F.F. von Krauss / F. von Krauss / Dr Krauss.

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: Mansell, 1867-1925.

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

Spohr, O.H. (ed.) Ferdinand Krauss: Travel journal, Cape to Zululand. Cape Town: Balkema, 1973.

Standard encyclopaedia of southern Africa (SESA). Cape Town: NASOU, 1970-1976.

Tabler, E.C. Pioneers of Natal and South Eastern Africa, 1552-1878. Cape Town: Balkema, 1977.


Compiled by: C. Plug


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