W. Hammond Tooke (sometimes W. Hammond-Tooke), Cape civil servant and self-taught anthropologist, arrived in South Africa in 1875. He fought in the Tambookie War of 1877 in the Eastern Cape, receiving a medal with clasp. After his discharge from the military he joined the civil service of the Cape Colony as a clerk in the Control and Audit Office in April 1878. He also started studying and in 1879 matriculated through the University of the Cape of Good Hope, winning both the Chancellor's gold medal and the J.B. Ebden prize for the best essay on a financial subject that year. In September 1880 he was promoted to second class clerk, transferred to the Crown Lands Department in April 1882, promoted to first class clerk in April 1887 and to principal clerk in April 1892. In September that year he became chief clerk of the Department of Lands, Mines and Agriculture. He compiled The statute law of the Cape of Good Hope, relating to the mining of precious stones and metals and other minerals... (Cape Town, 1891) and on 22 April 1890 married Alice A. Marais. During 1898-1900 he reported to the Public Works Department on the possible building of a harbour at the mouth of the Swakop River in present Namibia. In 1899 he participated in the Cape Colony and Orange Free State conference on the use of the water of the Orange River.
Tooke was promoted to accounting officer and assistant under-secretary in the Department of Agriculture in 1902. He was also a member of the Geological Commission of the Cape of Good Hope from 1900 to 1903. In February 1904 he was sent to Tristan da Cunha on HMS Odin to investigate the possibility of evacuating its inhabitants to the Cape Colony. After holding a referendum he advised against the scheme. His recommendations were contained in a most valuable report on the island. In May 1904 he and D. Hutcheon* represented the Cape Colony at the Inter-Colonial Veterinary Conference, held in Cape Town. He left the civil service soon afterwards and subsequently appears to have taught social anthropology at Rhodes University College, Grahamstown. His notebooks and papers are housed in the Albany Museum.
Tooke was a man of wide scientific interests. He was elected a member of the South African Philosophical Society in August 1882 and was still a member of its successor, the Royal Society of South Africa, in 1917. In 1888 he read a paper before the South African Philosophical Society on "The star-lore of the South African natives", which was published in its Transactions. His next contribution to anthropology came many years later and took the form of a chapter entitled "Uncivilised man south of the Zambesi" in Science in South Africa (1905, pp. 79-101), a volume published in preparation for the joint meeting of the British and South African Associations for the Advancement of Science in South Africa that year. In this chapter he reviewed the distribution and cultures of both the Bantu-speaking and Khoisan peoples of southern Africa. By 1907 he was a member of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science and the next year served on its publication committee and as president of Section F (which included anthropology) at its annual congress held in Grahamstown. His presidential address, "Notes on some of the earlier contributors to anthropological work in South Africa" (Report, 1908, pp. 345-362) dealt with observations on the indigenous population made by Arab traders along the east coast, seafarers, colonists and missionaries, up to the middle of the nineteenth century. At this time he resided in Grahamstown, where he appears to have been a librarian. Subsequently he contributed two further anthropological papers to the society's annual Report, "Notes on the East Coast Bantu of 80 years ago" (1911, pp. 80-91) and "Who built the Rhodesian ruins?" (1918, pp. 492-499). He furthermore published a paper on "The Bantu of the tenth century" (African Monthly, 1906/7, Vol. 1, p. 572), and "Notes on the geographical distribution of the Hottentot and Bantu in South Africa" (Records of the Albany Museum, 1913, Vol. 2(5), pp. 353-390).
Tooke also had scientific interests outside anthropology. For example, in 1898 he presented the South African Museum in Cape Town with a spider, and with samples of quartzite and hornblende schist from Possession and Ichaboe Islands along the west coast and from Cape Cross in Namibia. And in 1911 he contributed a paper on "The origin of vertebrates" to the Report of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science (pp. 162-170).