S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Sutton, Sir George Morris (forestry)

Born: 8 July 1834, Crowland, Lincolnshire, England.
Died: 30 November 1913, Howick, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Sir George Morris Sutton

George M. Sutton, farmer and prime minister of Natal, was educated at the Crowland Private School. He emigrated from England to the United States in 1854 and became an American citizen. In 1859 he married Harriet Burkitt, with whom he had two sons. After 1867 he lived on the Channel Islands for some time, before emigrating to Natal in 1872. He settled at Howick, where he acquired the farm Fair Fell and became a progressive farmer. He was married a second time in 1881, to Mary Pascoe (née Ritchie), with whom he had a daughter. By 1877 he was a member of the committee of the Pietermaritzburg Agricultural Society, serving as the society's president from 1880 to 1883 and again from 1905 to 1907. He was furthermore the agricultural correspondent of the Natal Witness for nine years.

Sutton made significant contributions to the establishment of the wattle industry in Natal. In 1884 he persuaded a tannery in Pietermaritzburg to experiment with the bark of the local black wattle (Acacia mearnsii, introduced from Australia some 20 years earlier) as a tanning material. The bark was already used for this purpose in other countries. The experiments proved successful and encouraged the local production of wattle bark for export. A few years later Sutton published a pamphlet, Wattle bark: A paying industry in Natal (Pietermaritzburg, 1888, 22p), in which he explained how to grow the trees, when to cut them down, how to strip and prepare the bark, the varieties of trees to plant, the yield of bark per acre, and the returns that farmers could expect, based partly on information from Australia. A second, enlarged edition was published in 1892 (46p). Later he became a director of several wattle concerns in Natal and a driving force in the development of the Dundee coal industry.

Sutton entered politics in 1875 as a member of the Legislative Council for Pietermaritzburg, until defeated in the election of 1883. In 1885 he was elected again, representing the constituency of Weenen until 1893. He served on various committees and boards, and strongly supported responsible government for the colony, which was introduced in 1893. From that time he again represented Pietermaritzburg in the Legislative Council and served as colonial treasurer to 1897. He became prime minister of Natal in August 1903, holding this position for two years. In 1904 he was honoured as a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG). By 1910 he was a member of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science.

List of sources:
Dictionary of South African biography, Vol. 2, 1972.

Lighton, C. Sisters of the south (revised ed., pp. 190-191). Cape Town: Howard Timmins, 1958.

Natal who's who, 1906.

Pietermaritzburg Agricultural Society. Report of the Pietermaritzburg Agricultural Society, 1877. Pietermaritzburg: P. Davis & Sons, 1878.

South African Association for the Advancement of Science. Report, 1910, list of members.

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

South African who's who, 1908.

Standard encyclopaedia of southern Africa (SESA). Cape Town: NASOU, 1970-1976.

Who was who, Vol. 1, 5th ed. London: Adam & Black, 1967.

Compiled by: C. Plug