S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Victorin, Mr Johan Friderik (plant collection, bird collection)

Born: 24 February 1831, Qvarn, ÷stergŲtland, Sweden.
Died: 3 November 1855, Qvarn, ÷stergŲtland, Sweden.

Johan Friderik (or Fredrik) Victorin, eldest son of P.H. Victorin and his wife H.L. Westring, was initially educated at home by his father before attending school in Link√∂ping in 1844 and entering high school in 1847. He demonstrated quick comprehension, had a very good memory, and showed great talent for drawing and painting. Natural history, and particularly vertebrate zoology, interested him from an early age and he soon became a skilled hunter. In the autumn of 1851 he entered Uppsala University, where he studied natural history and mathematics. During the summer of 1852 he collected and made notes of the birds on the island √Ėland.

Victorin was susceptible to tuberculosis, of which he later died, and to improve his health his parents enabled him to travel to the Cape of Good Hope. He arrived in Cape Town on 11 November 1853, aged 22, and for the next few months collected natural history specimens in the vicinity. One of the persons he met there was the naturalist J.A. Wahlberg*, who urged him to visit the more easterly part of the colony. On 27 February 1854 he sailed to Mossel Bay and travelled by ox-waggon via George to Knysna. There he remained until 1 December, collecting many specimens in the surrounding forests. He met members of the Rex family, visited Plettenberg Bay twice, and made short excursions to Westford and Redburn. After returning to George he travelled over Montague Pass to the Little Karoo. There he stayed mainly on the farms Roodeval (now Van Wykskraal) and Zeekoegat, near Oudtshoorn, until early February 1855. During this period his health deteriorated. After a visit to the Cango Cave on 8 February he returned via George to Mossel Bay and sailed for Cape Town on 9 March. He left the Cape for Sweden nine days later and settled in Qvarn, where he died later that year. Despite his poor health he was a lively, happy and humerous young man and a most promising zoologist.

The collection that Victorin made at the Cape included 83 mammals (of 30 species), 517 birds (153 species), and 20 amphibians (14 species). The birds he mounted himself. Also included were 31 bird's eggs (11 species), some 2000 insects, a number of shells and other invertebrates, plants, seeds, bulbs, and lichens. Two mammals and two birds were new to science. His specimens were well prepared and carefully described. The greater part of his collection was included in the collections of the Royal Academy of Science and is now in the Riksmuseum, Stockholm. His insects were mostly Coleoptera (beetles); the Hemiptera and Orthoptera were described by C. Stål (1856, 1871) and the Diptera by H. Loew (1858, 1860, 1862). The latter group included 24 new species, of which Pentatoma victorini was named after the collector.

Victorin's notes on the mammals, birds and reptiles of the Cape were edited by J.W. Grill and published as "Zoologiska Anteckningar..." (Zoological notes...) in the Proceedings of the Royal Academy of Science (new series, 1858, Vol 2, No. 10, 62p). Descriptions of the two new bird species by C.J. Sundevall were included in this paper and one of them was named Bradypterus victorini (now Cryptillas victorini, Victorin's Warbler) after the collector. Grill also compiled a book from the letters and diaries that Victorin wrote during his travels, J.F. Victorins resa i Kaplandet åren 1853-1855 (Stockholm, 1863, 160p). It was later translated into English and published as J.F. Victorin's travels in the Cape... (Cape Town, 1968).

List of sources:
Brinck, P. Swedish exploration of South African animal life during 200 years. In B. Hanström, P. Brinck & G. Rudebeck (eds), South African animal life: Results of the Lund University Expedition in 1950-1951 (Vol. 1, pp. 11-59). Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1955.

Hockey, P.A.R., Dean, W.R.J. & Ryan, P.G. (eds). Roberts birds of southern Africa (7th ed.) Cape Town: John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, 2005.

Grill, J.W. J.F. Victorin's travels in the Cape: The years 1853-1855. Cape Town: Struik, 1968.

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

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

Windquist, A.H. Scandinavians and South Africa: Their impact on the cultural, social and economic development of pre-1902 South Africa. Cape Town: Balkema, 1978.

Compiled by: C. Plug