S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Blencowe, Reverend George (geology, physical geography)

Born: 1817, Banbury, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom.
Died: 16 February 1893, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

George Blencowe, Methodist minister and missionary, entered the ministry in 1839. He came to Natal in 1858 and was resident minister in the Durban and Verulam circuit (1859-1861), Pietermaritzburg (1862-1866), Ladysmith (1867-1871), and again in Durban (1872). While in Pietermaritzburg he served on the council of the Natal Society during 1863-1864 and was joint vice-president of the sociekty in 1865-1866. During his years in Natal he undertook long mission journeys into northern KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State, and the Transvaal. He established the Mission Beyond the Vaal River and spent two years in Potchefstroom during 1872-1874 and some time in Pretoria, before moving to Pilgrim's Rest before January 1876. He was inclined to meddle in local politics and left the Transvaal in 1877 for pastoral work in England.

Blencowe was keenly interested in geology and physical geography. In 1879 his "Notes on the physical geography of Zululand and its borders" was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society (New series, Vol. 1, pp. 324-328). It contained significant information on the natural features of Zululand and parts of Natal, with notes on the climate of the region and the local inhabitants. During the same year he read a paper, "On certain geological facts observed in Natal and the Border Countries during nineteen years' residence" before the British Association for the Advancement of Science. His paper was published in the Association's Report for 1879 (pp. 349-350), and in 1880 also in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society and the Geological Magazine.

In 1882 Blencowe returned to the Transvaal, living in semi-retirement in Wakkerstroom. In 1892 he moved to Pietermaritzburg, where he died the next year.

List of sources:
Dictionary of South African biography, Vol. 5, 1987.

Hall, A.L. Bibliography of South African geology to the end of 1920. Pretoria: Geological Survey, Memoir No. 18, 1922.

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

Natal almanac, directory and yearly register, 1863-1866.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to G. Blencowe.

Wyley, C. A bibliography of contemporary writings on the natural history of Natal and Zululand during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Journal of Natal and Zulu History, 1990/1, Vol. 13, pp. 91-110.

Compiled by: C. Plug