S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Borcherds, Mr Meent Johannes Hendricus (fossil collection)

Born: 10 October 1809, Place not known.
Died: 8 January 1850, Fort Beaufort, Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Meent Johannes Hendricus (or Henricus) Borcherds, civil servant and fossil collector, was appointed clerk of the peace for Albany, Eastern Cape, in 1839 and promoted to resident justice of the peace at Fort Beaufort the next year. He subsequently became civil commissioner and resident magistrate at Fort Beaufort, posts which he occupied until his death in 1850. In 1832 he married Dorothea Elizabeth Fleck.

Borcherds befriended A.G. Bain* in about 1838 when the latter was stationed at Fort Beaufort. Bain described him as "a gentleman of considerable scientific acquirements" who had read Lyell's Principles of geology and other works on geology. They went fossil hunting together, initially without success, but eventually found their first Karoo fossil just north of the town. Many more discoveries followed and soon, according to Bain, "each of us had wagon loads of rough stones containing valuable fossils". Borcherds continued collecting in the Fort Beaufort area, sometimes with Bain. They realised that their finds were new to science and greedily read all the literature on geology, palaeontology and even comparative anatomy they could lay their hands on. Dr. W.G. Atherstone*, after viewing Bain's finds in Grahamstown, joined the enterprise and provided additional knowledge and enthusiasm. Bain sent his fossils to the Geological Society of London in 1844 and urged Borcherds to do the same. However the latter did not do so because he was afraid that they might be treated as worthless. Hence he received little recognition for his finds.

List of sources:

Bain, A.G. Reminiscences and anecdotes connected with the history of geology in South Africa... Eastern Province Monthly Magazine, September 1856. Reprinted in Transactions of the Geological Society of South Africa, 1896, Vol. 2, Part 5, pp. 58-75.

Heese, J.A. South African genealogies. Pretoria and Stellenbosch, 1986-2005.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to Meent Johannes Henricus Borcherds

Rootsweb, http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/SOUTH-AFRICA/2009-03/1236580688 re Meent Johannes Henricus Borcherds.

Compiled by: C. Plug