S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Schlicht, Albrecht W H von (mineralogy, plant collection)

Born: 27 February 1817, Frankfurt an der Oder, Germany.
Died: 23 March 1893, Northern Cape, South Africa.

Albrecht Wilhelm Hugo von Schlicht (according to the Dictionary of South African biography), German born pharmacist, prospector and plant collector, has been identified also as Albert Wilhelm Hugo von Schlicht (Gunn & Codd, 1981), Albert von Schlicht (Smalberger, 1975), Hugo Wilhelm Albert von Schlicht (Malherbe, 1966; Pama, 1983) and H.W. von Schlicht (Cape of Good Hope Government Gazette, 1862). His date of birth is equally uncertain, being given as 27 February 1817 (DSAB), 27 July 1817 (Gunn & Codd, 1981) and 27 July 1818 (Malherbe, 1966; Pama, 1983). He arrived at the Cape from Prussia in 1838 (Malherbe, 1966) and was licensed to practice as an apothecary, chemist and druggist on 12 July 1843. From 1847 to 1854 he had a business at the corner of Dorp and Loop Streets, Cape Town, and he retained his license to practice for at least a further ten years. On 17 November 1844 he married Henriėtte C.C.J. Langschmidt in Cape Town. They later had three sons and five daughters.

Von Schlicht first visited Namaqualand in 1843 and along the way inscribed his name in the cave known as the Heerenlogement, in the Vredendal district. He soon returned to Namaqualand to prospect for copper and eventually travelled nothwards into present Namibia as far as Swakopmund. After finding rich copper ore on the farm Springbokfontein, where the town Springbok was later established, he returned to Cape Town and tried unsuccessfully to interest investors and merchants in a mining venture. He also failed to buy the farm and its mineral rights. Subsequently he and several others formed the Concordia Consortium and in 1853 discovered rich copper deposits at Tweefontein (later Concordia). In order to mine these deposits Von Schlicht and several others formed the Namaqua Mining Company, which obtained the exclusive mineral rights to the Steinkopf Mission lands for a renewable period of ten years. The venture proved very profitable and the settlement of Concordia flourished. Von Schlicht and Henry H. Ley eventually took over the mines from the Namaqua Mining Company

Von Schlicht collected plants in Namaqualand and sent them to Otto W. Sonder* in Hamburg, Germany. Most of Sonder's herbarium later went to the Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm. Sonder named Mesembryanthemum schlichtiana after him.

In 1869 Von Schlicht sold his share in the Concordia mines to Ley. At this time he was a justice of the peace in Namaqualand and a member of the Divisional Council. Though he stayed on in South Africa for at least some years it seems that he returned to Germany after 1876. However, he later came back to the Cape Colony and died in Namaqualand.

List of sources:
Cape of Good Hope Government Gazette, 16 September 1862, Government Notice No. 284: List of the apothecaries, chemists and druggists, licensed in the Cape Colony.

Cape Town directory... (title varies), 1865, pp. 93-94: Apothecaries, chemists and druggists.

Dictionary of South African biography, Vol. 5, 1987.

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.

Pama, C. Die groot Afrikaanse familienaamboek. Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau, 1983.

Smalberger, J.M. Aspects of the history of copper mining in Namaqualand, 1846-1931. Cape Town: Struik, 1975.

Compiled by: C. Plug