S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Potts, Prof George (botany)

Born: 8 April 1877, Northallerton, Yorkshire, England.
Died: 11 July 1948, Bloemfontein, South Africa.

George Potts, botanist, studied at the British Dairy Institute, Reading, and at Armstrong College, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He obtained the National Diploma in Agricultur and the National Diploma in Dairying, was awarded the degree Bachelor of Science (BSc) by the University of Durham, and won the Durham Senior Exhibition (1899-1902). He obtained the degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at the University of Halle, Germany, with a thesis titled Zur physiologie des dictyostelium micoroides (1902). From 1902 to 1905 he was a lecturer in agriculture at Armstrong College and at some time was electeds a Fellow of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.

In February 1905 Potts was appointed as the first professor of natural science, changed a few years later to professor of botany, at Grey University College, Bloemfontein (later the University College of the Orange Free State, now the University of the Free State), a post he held until his retirement in December 1937. In 1907 the University of the Cape of Good Hope admitted him to the Master of Science (MSc) degree on the basis of his degrees from Halle and Durham. He was a member of the Botanical Survey Advisory Committee (initiated by I.B. Pole-Evans* in 1918), with responsibility for the central area of South Africa, from 1918 to 1938. His research topics included the pollen of the pepper tree as a cause of hay fever, on which he contributed three papers to the South African Journal of Science (1918, 1921, 1922). His other botanical papers dealt with "The plant succession in the Orange Free State and the need for maintaining a covering of vegetation" (ibid, 1923) and "An ecological study of a piece of Karroo-like vegetation near Bloemfontein" (with C.E. Tidmarsh; Journal of South African Botany, 1937). He also gave attention to finger and toe disease in cabbages.

Potts became a member of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science in 1905, served on its council for some years, and was elected president of Section C (which included botany) for 1913/14. Later he served as secretary of the same section when the association held its annual congress in Bloemfontein in 1923. He joined the South African Philosophical Society in 1905 and remained a member when it became the Royal Society of South Africa in 1908. In 1907 he became a member also of the Philosophical Society of the Orange River Colony. He was an examiner in botany for the University of the Cape of Good Hope in 1908, 1914 and 1916.

Potts collected plants mainly in the Free State and his specimens formed the basis of the university's Geo-Potts Herbarium. Other specimens collected by him are in the National Collection of Fungi of the Plant Protection Research Institute in Pretoria, the Bolus Herbarium of the University of Cape Town, the Bews Herbarium of the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg, the National Herbarium in Pretoria, and the Compton Herbarium in Cape Town. The species Puccinia pottsii and Gymnostomum potsii were named after him.

Potts married Sallie Burge in 1910, but they had no children. After her death in 1918 he married Elsie B. Strapp in 1929.

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

Journal of South African Botany, 1937, Vol. 3, paper by Potts.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). . Documents relating to Potts, George.

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

Orange River Colony. Civil sercvice list, 1905/6, 1907, 1910.

Phillips, E.P. A brief historical sketch of the development of botanical science in South Africa and the contribution of South Africa to botany. South African Journal of Science, 1930, Vol. 27, pp. 39-80.

Phillips, E.P. Memories of South African botanists. South African Journal of Science, 1965, Vol. 61, pp. 291-296.

Philosophical Society of the Orange River Colony. Transactions, 1903-1907, Vol. 1, list of members.

Royal Society of South Africa. Transactions, 1910, Vol. 1, and 1917, Vol. 6: Lists of Fellows and members.

South African Association for the Advancement of Science. Report, 1905/6, 1907, 1908, 1910, 1913, 1914, 1918: Office bearers and lists of members.

South African Journal of Science, 1918-1922, Vol. 15, 18 and 19: Papers by Potts; 1937, Vol. 34, pp. xliii-xix: Presidents and secretaries of the sections.

South African Philosophical Society. Transactions, 1906-1907, Vol. 16 and 17: Lists of members.

South African who's who, 1917/8, 1919/20, 1923/4, 1927/8, 1931/2, 1936, 1939, 1944, 1945, 1946.

University of the Cape of Good Hope. Calendar, 1908/9-1917/8.

Who was who, Vol. 4, 3rd ed. London: Adam & Black, 1964.

Compiled by: C. Plug