S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Peter, Prof Gustav Albert (botany)

Born: 21 August 1853, Gumbinnen, East Prussia (now in Russia).
Died: 4 October 1937, Goettingen, Germany.

Gustav Albert Peter (better known as Albert Peter), botanist, studied at the University of Koenigsberg from 1870 and in 1874 was awarded a doctoral degree. His inaugural dissertation was titled Ueber gefaesse und gefeassartige gebilde im holze (On vessels and vessel-like structures in wood; Koenigsberg, 1874). He was subsequently appointed at the University of Muenchen. In 1888 he became professor of botany at the University of Goettingen, a position he held until 1923. He was interested mainly in the comparative anatomy of plants and in cryptogams (non-flowering plants), but did not publish much. During the eighteen-nineties he described the plant families Compositae, Convolvulaceae, Hydrophyllaceae and Polemoniaceae for H.G.A. Engler* and K. Prantl, Die natuerlichen pflanzenfamilien. This was followed by his Flora von Suedhannover nebst den angrenzenden Gebieten (Goettingen, 1901, 2 vols). In 1903 he travelled widely in Europe and in 1907 started a two year world tour.

In July 1913 Peter set out on an extensive collecting tour in Africa that lasted almost six years. He was in German South West Africa (now Namibia) from 20 August to 17 October that year, where he collected over 500 plants from Swakopmund, via Tsumeb, the Waterberg, Windhoek and Keetmanshoop to Luderitz. Arriving in Cape Town on 24 October he met Dr H.W.R. Marloth* and after collecting there travelled to Port Elizabeth and via Graaff-Reinet to Pretoria. Leaving South Africa on 29 November he entered Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and travelled via Bulawayo, the Victoria Falls, Harare and Mutare to Beira and the Mozambique coast. From there he went to German East Africa (now Tanzania), where he remained for the rest of his tour. When he eventually returned to Germany many of the plants he had collected remained behind in Dar es Salaam and had to be destroyed as a result of infestation by insects.

Peter undertook a second journey in Africa during 1925-1926 during which he again collected some plants in Namibia, and a few hundred in Cape Town and other South African ports, during August 1925. The rest of his time was again spent in Tanzania. After his return to Germany he published Wasserpflanzen und sumpf gewachse in Deutsch-Ostafrika (Berlin, 1928, 129 p.) and Flora von Deutsch-Ostafrika (Berlin, 1929-1938). His herbarium of about 50 000 plants was acquired by the Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum at Berlin-Dahlem in 1936, with duplicates in several other herbaria.

List of sources:

Codd, L.E. & Gunn, M. Additional biographical notes on plant collectors in southern Africa. Bothalia, 1985, Vol. 15(3/4), pp. 631-654.

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

Compiled by: C. Plug