S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Stohr, Dr Frederick Otto (ornithology, plant collection)

Born: 1 December 1871, Brighton, England.
Died: 7 April 1946, Cape Town, South Africa.

Frederick O. Stohr (originally Friedrich O. Stoehr or St?hr), graduated as Master of Arts (MA) in classics at the University of Oxford. He continued his studies in medicine at the same university, qualifying as Bachelor of Medicine (MB) and Bachelor of Surgery (BCh) in 1899. The next year he came to South Africa with the Royal Army Medical Corps to take part in the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). After the war, in 1903, he accepted an appointment as medical officer of the expedition led by Dr Tryggve Rubin* to extend the geodetic survey of southern Africa, including the measurement of a geodetic arc along the 30? E meridian, through Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) to the shores of Lake Tanganyika. On 29 April 1903 Stohr, Rubin and two assistants left Cape Town by sea for Chinde, at the mouth of the Zambezi River on the Mozambique coast. They reached Feira, on the Zambesi near the border between Zambia and Mozambique, on 13 July. During the first year much of their time was devoted to work connected with the boundary between the British territories and Mozambique. Rubin extended the geodetic chain northwards for almost 800 km, from Manyangau (latitude 16? 25' 45" S) in Zimbabwe to Mpange Hill (latitude 9? 40' 57" S) in the north of Zambia. As a result of financial constraints the Board of the Chartered Company (which administered the territory at the time) ended the survey in June 1906. Stohr returned to Chinde on 16 June 1906.

During these years Stohr collected birds for the South African Museum, mainly in Zambia, but also in northern Zimbabwe near the Mozambique border and in western Mozambique near the Zambesi River. The specimens he collected in 1903 included seven species new to the museum. The next year he presented an additional collection of 176 birds (13 new to the museum) from the Zambesi Valley near Zumbo (or Vila do Zumbo, on the border between Mozambique and Zambia), as well as some insects. More birds followed in 1905. With W.L. Sclater* of the South African Museum as co-author he described his birds in "Notes on a collection of birds made in North-east Rhodesia by Dr F.E. Stoehr" in the Journal of the South African Ornithologists' Union (1906, Vol. 2(2), pp. 83-114), though his initials are wrongly given as F.E. instead of F.O.

According to Rubin's reports Stohr was reluctant to carry out his medical duties, preferring to devote his time to collecting plants and birds. However, he was also involved to some extent in the survey work and is credited with having improved the system of heliographic signalling. Later he carried out some research on the tsetse fly for the Belgian government, which had commercial interests in the Congo Free State (from 1908 the Belgian Congo). This work was published in his treatise (in French) on sleeping sickness in the Katanga region of the Congo, La Maladie du Sommeil au Katanga (London, 1912, 83p). Aroung this time he acquired a farm at Munshiwemba, in central Zambia. After further studies at the University of Oxford and at Guy's Hospital, London, he qualified as Doctor of Medicine (MD) in 1913 and became a psychiatrist. On 22 November 1913 he married the South African pianist Elsie Hall in London. He practiced in Johannesburg, but periodically visited his farm, where he collected some plants. During the nineteen-twenties he lived in Rondebosch, Cape Town. In 1942 he collected a few plants in the Transvaal. His specimens went to the National Botanical Institute in Pretoria and the Compton Herbarium of the National Botanical Institute in Cape Town.

List of sources:
Benson, C.W. et al. Further notes on the birds of Zambia, Appendix 2. Arnoldia [Zimbabwe], 1970, Vol. 4(40), pp. 52-55.

Brooke, R. An early ornithologist: Dr Frederick Otto Stoehr. Honeyguide, 1970, Vol. 62, p. 29.

Cape of Good Hope. Report of the Trustees of the South African Museum, 1903, 1904, 1905.

Codd, L.E. & Gunn, M. Additional biographical notes on plant collectors in southern Africa. Bothalia, 1985, Vol. 15, pp. 631-654.

Gill, D. A history and description of the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope. London: HMSO, 1913.

Gunn, M. & Codd, L.E. Botanical exploration of southern Africa. Cape Town: Balkema, 1981.

Journal of the South African Ornithologists' Union, 1906, Vol. 2(2), paper by Stohr and Sclater.

Medical, dental and pharmacy directory of South Africa, 1926/7. Pietermaritzburg, 1926.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). . Documents relating to Stohr, Frederick Otto / Stohr, F.O.

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

United Transvaal Directory, 1927.

Compiled by: C. Plug