S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Poch, Dr Rudolf (physical anthropology)

Born: 17 April 1870, Tarnopol, Austria (now Ternopil, Ukraine).
Died: 1921, Place not known.

Rudolf (sometimes Rudolph) Pöch (or Poech), Austrian ethnographer and physical anthropologist, studied in Vienna, Zürich and Berlin, but appears to have spent most of his professional career in Vienna. In 1904-1906 he visited the island New Guinea to study its people and made phonographic recordings of their spoken languages. These recordings he described in two reports to the Phonogram-Archivs-Kommission der kaiserliche Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien. A general account of his visit was published in the Sitzungsberichte of the Academy.

Pöch spent the years 1907-1909 in southern Africa, mainly to study the physical anthropology of the indigenous people of German South West Africa (now Namibia) and the Kalahari. A general account of his visit, "Berichte von meinen Reisen nach Südafrika von 1907 bis 1909" was published in the Akademischen Anzeiger, Königliche Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna, in 1908-1909. He visited the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria to study the San skeletal remains in its collection and wrote "Untersuchung von Buschmann-schädeln und skeletten aus dem Transvaal Museum" for the Annals of the Transvaal Museum (1909, Vol. 1(4), pp. 199-218). Several papers dealt with his encounters with and studies of living San, for example: "Reisen im Innern Südafrikas zum Studium der Buschmänner in den Jahren 1907-1909" (Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 1910); and "Ethnographische und geographische Ergebnisse meiner Kalaharireisen" (Petermanns Mitteilungen, 1912). A further paper dealt with San art, the relationship of the San to other human races, and South African stone tools of different ages: "1. Ueber die kunst der Buschmänner. 2. Die Stellung der Buschmannrasse unter den übrigen Menschenrassen. 3. Südafrikanische Steinwerkzeuge aus verschiedenen Perioden" (Korrespondenzblatt der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte, 1911). He gave some attention to the fauna and flora of the Kalahari region in "Ueber die Kalahari" (Verhandlungen der K.K. zoologisch-botanischen Gesellschaft in Wien, 1911), and to the physical geography of the region in "Meine beiden Kalaharireisen, 1908 und 1909" (Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Erdkunde zu Berlin, 1911).

In 1915 Pöch obtained the degree Doctor of Medicine (Dr. med.) in München, Germany, with a thesis on the craniology of the indigenous population of New South Wales, Australia. He also continued his anthropological studies by means of phonographic recordings, publishing three papers on the technical aspects of such recordings and a report to the Phonogram-Archivs-Kommission on phonographic recordings of prisoners of war made during World War I (1914-1918). Long after his death the anthropological results of his visit to southern Africa were published in a book entitled Völkerkundliche ergebnisse der Südafrikanischen reisen Rudolf Pöch's in der jahren 1907 bis 1909 (Vienna, 1936).

List of sources:
Annals of the Transvaal Museum, 1909, Vol. 1(4), paper by Pöch.

Gesamtverzeichnis des deutschsprachigen Schrifttums (GV) (1700-1910 and 1911-1965). München: K.G. Saur, 1976-1987.

Logan, R.F. Bibliography of South West Africa, geography and related fields. Windhoek: SWA Scientific Society, 1969.

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

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

Tobias, P.V. History of physical anthropology in southern Africa. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, 1985, Vol. 28, pp. 1-52.

Compiled by: C. Plug