S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Blersch, Prof Fridolin (agriculture)

Born: 15 February 1861, Germany.
Died: 5 August 1897, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
Prof Fridolin Blersch

Fridolin Blersch arrived at the Cape in 1884 with professor Albrecht C.G. Fischer*, who's assistant he had been in Stuttgart, Germany. Fishcher had been appointed as professor of chemistry and experimental physics at Victoria College, Stellenbosch, and Blersch served as his assistant in chemistry from July 1884 until he resigned in July 1886. Presumably he returned to Germany, for he is listed as having arrived at the Cape (again) from Unlingen, Baden-Württemberg, in 1887. Fischer introduced courses in agriculture at the College and when he left in November 1887 to become Secretary of Agriculture for the Cape Colony his classes were continued by Blersch. In July 1888 he became the principal of the newly established Government School of Agriculture and Viticulture in Stellenbosch, which functioned under the auspices of Victoria College until 1898.

Blersch regularly contributed articles to the Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope on a variety of topics. In March 1888 his description of smut and rust in wheat constituted the very first article to be published in the Journal (Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 2-3) and a lecture he gave on the improvement of cultivated plants and the production of new varieties was published in June that year (Vol. 1, pp. 55-56, 63-64). His other contributions included an article on cheese making (1890, Vol. 3, No. 4). As part of the practical work of the school he made trial cultivations of many varieties of wheat, some from India and Australia, observing in particular their resistance to rust and the effect of various methods of fertilisation. The results were described in the annual reports of the school and in some articles in the Agricultural Journal (1892, Vol. 4, No. 19; 1892, Vol. 5, p. 245; 1893, Vol. 6, No. 12).

Blersch made meteorological observations at Stellenbosch for the Meteorological Committee of the Cape of Good Hope for some years during the eighteen-nineties. He also taught elementary geology as part of his classes in agricultural chemistry, including a description of "the principal rocks and geological formations of South Africa". However, during his last years his main concern was with writing a textbook on agriculture. The manuscript was not quite finished at the time of his death in August 1897 and at the request of his wife it was later completed by J.H. Overman* and published in 1906 as Handbook of agriculture under Blersch's name.

List of sources:
Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope, 1888-1892, Vol. 1-5.

Blersch, F. Handbook of agriculture. Cape Town: Juta, 1906.

Cape of Good Hope. Civil service list, 1896.

Cape of Good Hope. Report of the Meteorological Commission, 1893, 1896.

Cape of Good Hope. Reports of the principals of the Government Agricultural Schools, 1893, 1895, 1896.

Department of Agricultural Technical Services, Winter Rainfall Region. Elsenburg: yesterday, today and tomorrow. Commemorative edition, 1978.

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

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

Otto, R. Der Anteil der Deutschen an der wirtschaftlichen Entwicklung. Lantern, February 1992, Vol. 41, pp.154-157.

Sim, J.T.R. Agronomy investigations in the winter rainfall region, 1892-1953. Stellenbosch-Elsenburg Science Series, Department of Agriculture, 1958, No. 53.

Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa. Cape Town: NASOU, 1970-1976.

Thom, H.B. et al. Stellenbosch 1866-1966: Honderd jaar hoër onderwys. Cape Town, 1966.

Verwoerd, W.J. Universiteit van Stellenbosch. In C.R. Anhaeusser (Ed.), A century of geological endeavour in southern Africa, 1895-1995 (pp. 242-255). Johannesburg: Geological Society of South Africa, 1997.

Compiled by: C. Plug