S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Rehmann, Dr Anton (botany, geography)

Born: 13 May 1840, Kraków, Poland.
Died: 13 January 1917, L'viv, Galicia, Ukraine.

Anton Rehmann (or Antoni Rehman, when he wrote in Polish), botanist and geographer, was probably of German ancestry. He was born in the province Galicia, then part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire, and died in eastern Galicia, which was later incorporated in Ukraine. He wrote fluently in both German and Polish.

Rehmann was interested in botany from an early age, starting an herbarium while still at school. After attending the Jagiellonian University in Kraków from 1860 he graduated in 1863 and the next year was awarded a doctoral degree. His first publication, "Die Gefäss-Kryptogamen von Westgalizien" appeared in the Verhandlungen des Zoologisch-Botanischen Vereins in Wien in 1862 and dealt with the ferns and bryophytes (liverworts and mosses) of western Galicia. In 1864 he expanded this into a description of the main vegetation zones of western Galicia, with lists of the typical bryophytes of each zone. During 1866-1867 he qualified as a university teacher in Munich, returning to Kraków in 1868. He published papers on the flora of Austria (1865-1871), resin formation in conifers and other plants (in Polish, 1869), the vegetation on the northern shore of the Black Sea (in German, 1872), and the vegetation units and associated climatic conditions of the "Taurischen" [Turkish?] Peninsula (in German, 1876).

From 1875 to 1877 Rehmann made the first of two extended visits to South Africa. He collected both bryophytes and flowering plants in numerous localities: From Knysna to Montague Pass and back; around Cape Town; at Tulbagh, Ceres and Worcester; across the Karoo to Beaufort West and from there to Kimberley; via Bloemfontein to the Caledon River and on to Harrismith; and via Van Reenen's Pass to Durban. Upon his return he published a comprehensive paper in Polish, "Geo-botaniczne stosunki poludniowéj Afryki" (Phytogeography of South Africa, 1879), which included a map showing his route and delineating several large pytogeographical regions.

His second visit took place in 1879-1880, when he confined his attention mainly to the Transvaal. He landed at Durban and travelled to Pretoria via the Free State. From there he travelled north, collecting as far as the Soutpansberg, and was the first to make a substantial collection in the Woodbush forest reserve (east of Haenertsburg). He returned to Natal via Standerton and in Durban visited J. Medley Wood*. In April 1880, at a special meeting of the Natal Microscopical Society in Durban, he read a paper on "The mosses of Natal and the Transvaal". In May he spent a week or two in Cape Town where he met Harry Bolus*. After returning to Kraków he wrote "Das Transvaal-Gebiet des südlichen Afrika in physikalisch-geographischer Beziehung" (The Transvaal region of southern Africa with reference to its physical geography), which was published in the Mitteilungen der K.K. geographische Gesellschaft in Wien (1883, in 4 parts, 121p) and dealt mainly with the orography (mountains) and hydrography (waters) of the territory. A brief account of the results of his two journeys in South Africa, "Ueber die Ergebnisse seiner zwei Reisen in Südafrika", appeared in the Verhandlungen des Naturhistorischen Vereins in 1881.

Rehmann's flowering plants were made available to the botanist I. Szyszylowicz, who listed just over 1000 specimens (belonging to 421 species of the Polypetalae and representing perhaps a third of the collection) in two lengthy papers published in Latin in 1887 and 1888. However, before the work was completed he returned the whole collection to Rehmann, who sold it to Dr H. Schinz* of Zurich. Rehmann named many of his mosses, but practically all his names were either not accepted because they were not published, or became synonyms. His mosses were listed by H.N. Dixon and A. Gepp in Kew Bulletin in 1923, including collections by J.H. McLea* and J. Medley Wood which he had obtained while in South Africa. Three sets of his South African mosses were acquired by Bolus, P. MacOwan* and J. Medley Wood, and were later housed in the Bolus Herbarium (University of Cape Town), the herbarium of Albany Museum, and the National Herbarium in Durban respectively. His main collection of mosses, including many South African specimens, was almost entirely destroyed during World War II. He is commemorated in the moss genus Rehmaniella and in many species names.

In 1882 Rehmann was appointed professor of geography at Lemberg (now L'viv) University and from that time devoted himself mainly to geographical and ethnographical studies, though he continued to write several botanical papers. His main publication was a two-volume work (in Polish) on ancient Poland and the neighbouring Slav regions (1895, 1904).

List of sources:
Burtt-Davy, J. & Leendertz, R. First annotated catalogue of the vascular plants of the Transvaal and Swaziland. Report of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science, 1908, pp. 230-236.

Codd, L.E. & Gunn, M. The collecting activities of Anton Rehmann (1840-1917) in South Africa. Bothalia, 1982, Vol. 14, pp. 1-14.

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

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

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

Natal Colonist, 22 April 1880, p. 2, Local and Colonial.

Natal Mercury, 22 April 1880, p. 3, Local and General.

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

Royal Society of London. Catalogue of scientific papers [1800-1900]. London: Royal Society, 1867-1925.

Sim, T.R. The Bryophyta of South Africa. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa, 1926, Vol. 15, pp. 1-475 (See pp. 1-5).

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

Compiled by: C. Plug