S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Smith, Mr Frank Braybrooke (agriculture)

Born: 1864, Great Catworth, Huntingdonshire, England.
Died: 11 November 1950, Folkstone, England.

Frank B. Smith, agricultural expert, was the son of W. Croxton Smith, a well-known agriculturalist and authority on farming and estate management. Frank was educated privately and spent several years learning farming in various parts of England. He also served articles with a firm of estate agents to become acquainted with estate management. From 1892 to 1894 he studied agriculture at Downing College, Cambridge. In the latter year he was appointed lecturer in rural economics at the newly established South-Eastern Agricultural College at Wye, Kent, becoming professor of agriculture and vice-principal in 1895. In 1900 he visited the United States and Canada to study their system of agricultural education and administration and upon his return published Agriculture in the New World: A record of a visit paid to the United States and Canada (London, 1902, 124p).

In March 1902, near the end of the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), Smith was appointed to advise the Governor of the Transvaal Colony, Lord Milner, on land settlement, restocking of farms, introduction of new grasses and crops, the establishment of model farms and agricultural policy, as part of the territory's post-war reconstruction. Arriving in Pretoria on 20 May he set to work immediately and on 31 July submitted his report on "The agricultural administration of the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies". The governor accepted his report and asked him to put his recommendations into effect. As a result, a Department of Agriculture was established in the Transvaal in September 1902, with Smith as director. He faced serious difficulties in establishing scientific agricultural practices in the colony, among them a hostile farming population, ruined infrastructure, and various pests and diseases that had flourished during the war. However, Smith was clearly a man of action. He created several senior posts in the department, leading to the appointment of Arnold Theiler* as veterinary bacteriologist, Joseph Burtt Davy* as botanist and agrostologist (expert on grasses), Herbert Ingle* as chemist, C.E. Legat* as forestry assistant, Stewart Stockman* as veterinary officer, and R.A. Davis* as horticulturalist. He also immediately created the quarterly Transvaal Agricultural Journal, the first issue of which was published in October 1902. It contained articles on agriculture and stock diseases by the department's experts, reports on agricultural matters by magistrates, agricultural news items, and other items useful to farmers.

Smith was elected a member of the Transvaal Legislative Council from its inception in 1903 to 1906 and used his position to promote modern agricultural methods and obtain adequate funds for his department. As a result Lord Milner was able to claim in 1905 that of the British colonies only Canada was agriculturally more advanced than the Transvaal. In addition to his post as director of agriculture Smith also served on the Land Settlement Board (1902-1908), the Indigency Commission (1906-1908), the committee of the Government Library, the committee of the Transvaal Museum and Zoological Gardens, and the council of the Transvaal University Collgeg. During these years he wrote an article for the Transvaal Agricultural Journal (1907-1908, Vol. 6, pp.1-) on agricultural education and research.

Smith visited Britain in 1905 and reported on a tour through the United States and Canada in 1907. By 1904 he was a member of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science, serving on its council for 1904/5. He was still a member by 1910. At the association's meeting in Grahamstown in July 1908 he delivered "Some observations on the probable effect of unification of South Africa upon agriculture". The paper was published as a pamphlet in Pretoria (1908, 31p). In August that same year he left on a six months visit to Britain and the United States to determine the most suitable way of amalgamating the agricultural departments of the four South African colonies, should a Union of South Africa be established. After the formation of the Union in May 1910 he acted as secretary for agriculture of the Union from June 1910 and had the unenviable task of creating a reduced and uniform administration of agriculture in a single department. Later he continued to support scientific agricultural methods, and particularly agricultural and veterinary education, despite the reduction of staff and supplies as a result of World War I (1914-1918). For example, a plea by him for more agricultural education in South Africa was published as a pamphlet under the title The teaching of agriculture (not dated, 11p). In 1919 the British government honoured him as a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) for his contributions to colonial agriculture. By 1917 he was a member of the Royal Society of South Africa and in 1916/7 became a foundation member of the South African Biological Society. His main recreational activity was hunting.

Smith retired in 1920 and in August that year left for Cambridge. There he was awarded the degree Master of Arts (MA, 1920) and was appointed reader (senior lecturer) in estate management, a post he held from 1920 to 1928. In 1924 he was elected a Fellow of Downing College. After his final retirement he settled in Folkstone, Kent.

List of sources:
Cranefield, P.F. Science and empire: East Coast Fever in Rhodesia and the Transvaal. Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Dictionary of South African biography, Vol. 4, 1981.

Men of the times: Pioneers of the Transvaal and glimpses of South Africa. Johannesburg: Transvaal Publishing Co., 1905.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). . Documents relating to Smith, F.B.

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

Royal Society of South Africa. Transactions, 1917, Vol. 6, list of members.

South African Association for the Advancement of Science. Report, 1904, 1905/6, 1908, 1910.

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

South African Journal of Natural History, 1918, Vol. 1(1), pp. 8-15: Roll of Foundation Members [of the SA Biological Society].

South African who's who, 1908, 1919/20.

Transvaal [Colony]. Civil Service List, 1906.

Transvaal [Colony], Department of Agriculture. Report for 1902, 1902/3.

Transvaal Agricultural Journal, 1907-1908, Vol. 6.

Transvaal Museum. Annual Report, 1905/6, 1906/7. (National Archived, Pretoria, Vol. TKP196).

Transvaal public service list, 1909.

Union of South Africa. Public service list, 1914.

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

Compiled by: C. Plug