S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Schlechter, Mr Ernst Gustav Ludwig Max (invertebrate collection, plant collection)

Born: 15 July 1874, Berlin, Germany.
Died: 9 October 1960, Cape Town, South Africa.

Max Schlechter, German trader and collector of natural history specimens, was the son of Hugo Schlechter, a lithographer in Berlin, and a younger brother of the botanist F.R. Rudolf Schlechter*. Max came to South Africa in May 1896 to join Rudolf on his collecting trips. They travelled north to the Vanrhynsdorp district, returning to Cape Town in September. Between November 1896 and April 1897 they collected northwards to the Cedarberg and eastwards to Cape Agulhas. In August 1897 the two brothers, accompanied by the pharmacist Ludwig Mally*, set out for Namaqualand and reached the Orange River at Ramansdrift. Rudolf returned to Cape Town by sea from Port Nolloth, while Max remained behind to trade.

Max collected mainly for commercial purposes and most of his Western Cape and Namaqualand specimens were sold to the South African Museum, Cape Town. These included a collection of 58 species of Coleoptera (1897); many scorpions, including two species new to science (1897); and a collection of reptiles from Namaqualand (1898). Furthermre, "an enormous collection of scorpions, etc., all labelled with the exact location and date, and therefore especially valuable, was made in Little and Great Bushmanland by Mr Max Schlechter and purchased from him. This collection is so complete that the scorpions of this otherwise little accessible region are now better known than those of any other equally large area in South Africa" (1898, p. 8). The collection included several new species. More scorpions and spiders from Bushmanland were purchased from him in 1899, while that same year he sold a collection of 133 plants from Bushmanland to the Albany Museum, Grahamstown.

On 12 June 1901 Max married Sofia L.E. Seeliger, with whom he had six children. He spent most of his time during the years 1900 to 1926 in Namibia, collecting sporadically. However, in 1905 he resided at Steinkopf in Namaqualand and was declared insolvent. After 1926 he appears to have settled in Port Nolloth, where he collected succulent plants, particularly vygies (Mesembryanthemum sp.). His succulents were later acquired by several different institutions, including the Bolus Herbarium, University of Cape Town; Department of Botany, University of Stellenbosch; and the Division of Botany and Plant Pathology, Pretoria. Other plant specimens collected by him are housed in the Botanical Museum, Berlin-Dahlem, and the Natural History Museum, London. The plant genus Schlechteranthus and plant species Sutera maxii and Polycarena maxii were named after him.

List of sources:
Cape of Good Hope. Report of the Committee of the Albany Museum, 1899.

Cape of Good Hope. Report of the Trustees of the South African Museum, 1897, 1898, 1899.

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

Malherbe, D.F. du T. Family register of the South African nation (3rd ed.) Stellenbosch: Tegniek, 1966.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). . Documents relating to Schlechter, Ernst Ludwig Gustav Max.

Compiled by: C. Plug