S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Bleloch, Mr William Edwin (geology)

Born: October 1863, London, England.
Died: 13 February 1946, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Mr William Edwin Bleloch

William Edwin Bleloch was educated in Scotland, where he matriculated through the University of Glasgow. He arrived in South Africa early in 1889 and worked as a commercial traveller for A. Dickson and Co. of Port Elizabeth for five years. In 1894 he moved to Johannesburg, where he became prominent as an amateur geologist, director of mining companies, and an authority on the gold resources of the Transvaal. During the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) he worked as a war correspondent and wrote a book, The new South Africa: its value and development(London, 1901). It dealt with the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies, particularly with the gold mining industry, railways, and other industries. Shortly after the war he was appointed by Lord Milner, Governor of the Transvaal Colony, as a member of the commission to enquire into the Gold Law. By 1908 he was chairman and managing director of the Diamond Mining Investment Co., Ltd. He was also chairman until his death of the Southern Van Ryn Gold Mining Co., established on the basis of his prospecting for gold in the south-western Transvaal, and director of many other companies.

Though he had no formal training in geology, Bleloch joined the Geological Society of South Africa in 1896 and contributed significant ideas to a better understanding of the geology of the Witwatersrand. His first paper, "Rand conglomerates", appeared in the society's Transactions in 1898 (Vol. 4, pp. 175-181; discussion and reply in 1899, Vol. 5, pp. 30-42). In this paper he described the banket as a series of sub-shore deposits banked up by waves and ocean currents against a sloping shore and introduced three important ideas. First, he questioned the generally accepted view that all the strata were completely conformable, arguing that gradual subsidence at times produced estuarine deposits with unconformities. Second, he was the first to suggest that repeated subsidence and uplifting must have caused reworking of earlier deposits by ocean currents. Third, he suggested that present outcrops were close to the original edge of the depositional basin and had therefore been little eroded.

Later Bleloch participated in the discussions of papers by J. Kuntz* (1903) and E.T. Mellor* (1912) on aspects of the geology of the Witwatersrand, wrote a short article on the geology and possibilities of the Pniel Estate (South African Mines, 1907), produced a geological map of the Witwatersrand strata in the southern Transvaal and northern Free State, with a comprehensive explanantion titled The Witwatersrand system (Johannesburg, 1910, 430p), and wrote a short article for the Mining Magazine (London, 1911) on the geology of the Witwatersrand. He was still actively prospecting for gold and base metals in 1925. He believed that the Main Reef was continuous between the Central and East Rand, though poorly mineralised, and that there was no so-called "Boksburg gap" (Mining and Industrial Magazine, 1926, Vol. 2, pp.453-457), and was proved right by later mining. His description of the geology of Heidelberg was published in a series of short contributions to the South African Mining and Engineering Journal in 1921. During the late nineteen-thirties and early nineteen-forties he practised as a consulting geologist

Bleloch's other works included a book on The Far East Rand: its reefs, mines and share values (Johannesburg, 1919) and a smaller work on The future of the Far East Rand goldfields (London, 1933, 38p). With A.E. O'Flaherty, editor of the South African Mining Journal, as co-author he also wrote A thousand million pounds for us or Germany? and The German plot in South Africa and its connection with the gold of the Far East Rand, both published in Johannesburg in 1917. His other political works included England under the heel of the Jew (London, 1918) and The strange conduct of Mr Malan (Johannesburg, 1921, 56p).

Bleloch was still a member of the Geological Society of South Africa in 1919. He became a member of the Chemical, Metallurgical and Mining Society of South Africa in 1902. By 1906 he had also joined the South African Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1901 he married Edith Griffiths of Grahamstown, with whom he had a son. After her death in 1916 he married Elizabeth Adelaide Ironside. His son, Dr. William Bleloch became a well-known chemical and metallurgical engineer. Father and son together registered US Patent 1768307 in 1930 for improvements in safety razors. A bequest by Bleloch's second wife served to equip and name the W.E. Bleloch Museum of the Department of Geology at the University of the Witwatersrand.

List of sources:
Chemical, Metallurgical and Mining Society of South Africa. Journal, 1904/5, Vol. 5, Members; 1946, Vol. 46, pp. 233-234: Obituary.

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

Geological Society of South Africa. Transactions(including Proceedings), 1897, Vol. 2; 1899, Vol. 4; 1906, Vol. 10; 1915, Vol. 18; 1920, Vol. 23: Lists of members.

Google Patents. www.google.com/patents/US1768307

Hall, A.L. A bibliography of South African geology.... Pretoria: Geological Survey, Memoirs No. 18 (1922), 25 (1927), 27 (1931), and 30 (1937).

Harger, H.S. Historical notes on the Geological Society of South Africa. Proceedings of the Geological Society of South Africa, 1939, Vol. 42, pp. lxvii-lxxiv.

Mendelssohn, S. South African bibliography. London, 1910.

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

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to William Edwin Bleloch / W.E. Bleloch.

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

Pretorius, D.A. The depositional environment of the Witwatersrand goldfields: a chronological review of speculations and observations. Minerals Science and Engineering, Vol. 7, 1975, pp. 18-47.

South African Association for the Advancement of Science. Report, 1905/6, 1910, lists of members.

South African bibliography to the year 1925. London: Mansell, 1979 (Vol. 1-4) and Cape Town: South African Library, 1991 (Vol. 5).

South African Who's Who, 1908, 1917/8, 1936, 1939, 1944.

Compiled by: C. Plug