S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science




Saxton, Mr Walter Theodore (botany)

Born: 16 October 1882, Old Cleeve, Somerset, England.
Died: 27 February 1973, South Africa.

Walter T. Saxton's birthplace, given as Cleeve, Somerset (Gunn & Codd, 1981) is somewhat uncertain, as it could be either Old Cleeve, Somerset, or Cleeve, Gloucestershire. Saxton studied at the University of Cambridge and was awarded the degree Bachelor of Arts (BA) in botany. Early in 1906 he accepted an appointment as assistant to Professor H.H.W. Pearson* in the Department of Botany of the South African College, Cape Town. In addition to teaching botany he also lectured in forest mycology and plant physiology at the newly established South African School of forestry, an institution closely associated with the college. The University of the Cape of Good Hope admitted him to its BA degree in 1906, on the basis of his BA from the University of Cambridge

Saxton became a member of the South African Philosophical Society in 1906, but his membership lapsed when it became the Royal Society of South Africa in 1908. He became a member also of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science, serving as secretary of its Section C (which included botany) during 1911 and 1912. By 1909 he had been elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society (FLS).

During his seven years at the South African College Saxton published about 14 papers in local and overseas journals, including several on plant embryology: "On the development of the ovule and embryo sac in Cassia tomentosa Lamk." (Transactions of the South African Philosophical Society, 1907); "Preliminary account of the ovule, gametophytes and embryo of Widdringtonia cupressoides" (1909), "Parthenogenesis in Pinus pinaster" (1909), and "Contributions to the life history of Widringtonia cupressoides" (1910) in the Botanical Gazette; "Development of the embryo in Pinus pinaster, with some notes on the life history of the species in Cape Colony" (1909), "Notes on the anatomy of Widringtonia and Callitris" (1909), and "Modern theories of heredity" (1911) in the Report of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science; "The ovule of the Bruniaceae" (1910) and "The leaf spots of Richardia albo-maculata, Hook." (1913) in the Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa; and contributions on the life history of Callitris, Actinostrobus pyramidalis and Tetraclinus articulata in the Annals of botany. With E.P. Phillips* he wrote "Descriptions of some common Cape fungi" for the Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope (1908).

In 1907 Saxton presented a specimen of a rare plant from the Cape Peninsula to the South African Museum. Plants collected by him are now housed in the Compton Herbarium of the National Botanical Institute, Cape Town. He also sent freshwater algae to the University of London.

From the beginning of 1913 Saxton was granted six months leave, which he appears to have spent in England. He left the South African College on 30 June that year to accept an appointment as professor of botany at Gujerat College, Ahmadabad, India. With L.J. Sedgwick he published a paper on "Plants of northern Gujerat" (1918), with additions (1922), in the Botanical Survey Records of India. Later he was at Reading University and at the University of Cape Town, the successor of the South African College. During the nineteen-thirties he lectured at the South African Native College, Fort Hare, in the Eastern Cape. His "Oecological notes on the district of Manubie, Transkei" appeared in the Transaction of the Royal Society of South Africa in 1918. During 1929-1930 he contributed seven "Notes on conifers" to the Annals of Botany. In 1930 he published "The root nodules of Podocarpaceae" in the South African Journal of Science and the next year "The life history of Lunularia cruciata (L.) Dum., with special reference to the archegoniophore and sporophyte" in the Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa. After his retirement he settled in Somerset East.


List of sources:
Cape of Good Hope. Report of the Trustees of the South African Museum, 1907.

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

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

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.

Ritchie, W. The history of the South African College, 1829-1918. Cape Town: T. Maskew Miller, 1918.

Royal Society of South Africa. Transactions, Vol. 2 (1910-1912), 3 (1913), 6 (1917-1918) and 19 (1931).

South African Association for the Advancement of Science. Report, 1909, 1910, 1911.

South African Journal of Science, 1930, Vol. 27, paper by Saxton.

South African Philosophical Society. Transactions, 1906-1907, Vol. 16, 17.

University of the Cape of Good Hope. Calendar, 1907/8.


Compiled by: C. Plug


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