S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Wawra, Heinrich (botany)

Born: 2 February 1831, Brünn (now Brno), Austria (now Czech Republic).
Died: 24 May 1887, Baden, Austria.

Heinrich Wawra, Austrian naval surgeon and botanist, qualified as Doctor of Medicine at the University of Vienna in 1855. During his student years he visited Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands to collect plants and in 1851 published a flora of Brünn, the town of his birth. In December 1855 he joined the Austrian navy as a ship's surgeon. For more than twenty years he travelled to different parts of the world, collecting a large number of plants. During an expedition on the Corvette Carolina (April 1857 - May 1858) he visited the Cape from 11 December 1857 to 12 January 1858, before proceeding to Benguella and Luanda in Angola. The lichens that he collected at the Cape were described in 1861 by the Italian specialist Abramo B. Massalongo, who named the species Pertusaria wawreana after him. With J. Peyritsch as co-author Wawra described the plants that he had collected along the coast of Angola in a long paper, "Sertum benguellense...", in the Sitzungsberichte der Kaiserliche Akademie der Wissenschaften, mathematisch-naturwissenschaftliche classe (1859). The paper was published also as a monograph (Vienna, 1860, 46p).

In November 1859 Wawra departed again, this time in the steamer Elisabeth, visiting Brazil and Argentina. During 1868-1871 he voyaged round the world on the Donau, visiting the Canary Islands, the Cape of Good Hope, China, the East Indies, Hawaii, and South America. His "Beiträge zur Flora der Hawaischen Inseln" (Contribution to the flora of the Hawaian islands) was published in Flora during 1872-1875. He made a second voyage round the world in the company of Prince Philip and Prince August of Sachsen-Coburg, Germany, during 1872-1873. Lichens that he collected on these two voyages were described by von Krempelhuber in 1876. In 1879 he accompanied Prince August of Sachsen-Coburg and Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria to Brazil. A few years later he wrote an account of the botanical aspects of the last two voyages (Vienna, 1883-1888, 2 vols). He also published a long paper (in French) on the Bromeliaceae of Brazil, collected during his visit in 1879.

In 1873 Wawra was honoured as Ritter von Fernsee. His plant specimens are housed in the Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques, Geneva, and in the Naturhistoriesches Museum, Vienna.

List of sources:
Algemeine Deutsche Biographie. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1967-1971.

Doidge, E.M. South African fungi and lichens to the end of 1945. Bothalia, 1950, Vol. 5, pp. 1-1094 (see p. 30).

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

National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

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

Compiled by: C. Plug