S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Vanderplank, Dr Francis Bartholomew (veterinary Science)

Born: 14 January 1868, Camperdown, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Died: 22 October 1897, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Francis B. Vanderplank qualified as a veterinarian (MRCVS) at the Royal Veterinary College, London, on 16 May 1889. He was back in Natal in 1892 and in May 1893 started work as acting colonial veterinary surgeon, a post he held for about a year in the absence of the colonial veterinary surgeon, Samuel Wiltshire*. Wiltshire proceeded to the United States shortly after Vanderplank's arrival, to study Texas Fever, leaving Vanderplank with the task of writing the annual Report of the Colonial Veterinary Surgeon for 1892/93. In this report (dated 30 September 1893) he expounded the then revolutionary opinion that bovine "red water" (Babesiosis) is caused by a blood parasite that is transmitted by the blue tick. When Wiltshire returned he wrote in his report for 1893/94 that he did not support this theory and that the disease was probably spread by soil infected by the secretions of diseased animals. Wiltshire's argument that the blue tick had always been prevalent in Natal whereas the disease only appeared in 1870 was sound, but subsequent events proved that with the exception of the identity of the tick, Vanderplank's theory was essentially correct. In 1895 Wiltshire was "retired" and was succeeded by Vanderplank, who was the next year confronted with the problem of protecting his country against the threat of rinderpest. He made two visits to Harrismith during 1896 in connection with the disease, and in April that year attended the first International Rinderpest Conference in Mafikeng. His revolutionary views are evident in his recommendation to the government of Natal to fence off Natal and blow up all mountain passes to prevent the spread of the disease to the Colony. Large stretches of the border were in fact fenced, but to no avail. Unfortunately Vanderplank died in 1897, apparently from the after-effects of a puffadder bite received in his youth.

List of sources:
Natal Blue Books, Departmental Reports, 1892/3, 1893/4, Report of the Colonial Veterinary Surgeon; 1896, Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). . Documents relating to Vanderplank, Francis Bartholomew / Vanderplank, F.B.

Posthumus, P.J. Past Veterinarians in South Africa (10th edition), Vol. 2, [1992].

Compiled by: D.W. Verwoerd