S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Peake, Professor William Henry Aston (agricultural chemistry)

Born: 28 March 1855, Dublin, Ireland.
Died: 28 June 1883, Stellenbosch, South Africa.

W.H. Aston Peake, son of John S. Peake, studied chemistry in Ireland before he moved to England in 1874. For some time he was an assistant at the Royal Indian Civil Engineering College at Cooper's Hill, west of London, and may also have studied at the University of Edinburgh. He married a Miss Sexton in 1876 and they had three children. In 1878 he became as assistant at the Rothamstead agricultural experiments station, at Harpenden, north of London, where he remained until January 1882. During this period he and a Mr Warrington contributed a paper, "On the determination of carbon in soils", to the Chemical Society.

Peake had an extensive general knowledge of science and spoke several oriental languages, but was a modest person with an amiable disposition. In March 1882 he was appointed at the Stellenbosch College (later Victoria College, forerunner of Stellenbosch University) as the first professor of chemistry and experimental physics, with a view to introducing the teaching of agriculture at the college. Unfortunately his health had been precarious for some time and he died of pulmonary tuberculosis the next year. His successors, A.C.G. Fischer* and F. Blersch*, instituted agricultural courses which developed into a school of agriculture as part of Victoria College, and later into the Stellenbosch-Elsenburg College of Agriculture.

List of sources:
De Bruyn, G.F.C. Professore: Universiteit van Stellenbosch en voorgangers. Kaapstad: Nasionale Handelsdrukkery, 1989.

Elsenburg: Yesterday, today and tomorrow (Commemorative edition, 1898-1978). Department of Agricultural Technical Services, 1978.

Obituary: William Henry Aston Peake. Journal of the Chemical Society, 1884, Vol. 45, pp. 617-618.

Thom, H.B. et al. Stellenbosch 1866-1966: Honderd jaar ho?r onderwys. Kaapstad: Nasionale Boekhandel, 1966.

Compiled by: C. Plug