S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

White*, Mrs Bliss Ann (natural history collection)

Born: 15 November 1823, Cape Town, South Africa.
Died: 16 July 1907, Grahamstown, South Africa.

"Mrs George White", an ardent collector of zoological specimens, was born as Bliss Ann Atherstone, daughter of Dr John Atherstone* and his wife Elizabeth Damant, and sister of Dr W.G. Atherstone* and Dr Edwin Atherstone*. She married George White (who, like B. White* came from Table Farm, near Grahamstown) and spent most of her married life on their farm Brak Kloof (later Brakkloof), some 35 km north-west of Grahamstown. They had three sons and one daughter.

Mrs White collected a wide range of animals, most of them on Brakkloof. She presented her finds to the Albany Museum, Grahamstown, in a steady stream from 1887 to her death at the age of 83 in 1907. Her first donation (1887), consisted of a large collection of shells from Kleinemonde (east of Port Alfred). The next year she began to supply the museum with a steady stream of beetles and other insects, as well as numerous reptiles. Many of her insects were new to the museum's collections. The newly appointed director of the museum, Dr S. Sch?nland*, thanked her in his annual report for 1889 "for her untiring efforts to increase our collections". For several years afterwards she headed the list of the museum's donators and in 1896 Sch?nland again singled her out for her persistent help in contributing large numbers of specimens. Her donations during 1890 included herbarium specimens, and in later years she provided many rats, bats, other small mammals, birds, snakes, lizards, tortoises, and arachnids, in addition to insects. Among her donations in 1901 were 91 spiders, two of which were new species. During 1899 her collections arrived almost weekly, yet her specimens were all carefully preserved.

Occasionally other naturalists collected with her on Brakkloof. During 1897 these included Mr A.D. Millar* (Coleoptera) and either Miss Letty or Miss Lilly Leppan* (mammals). Shortly after her death in 1907 the museum received the last of her collections, consisting of a large number of small mammals and other specimens. For twenty-one years she had been one of the museum's most important zoological collectors. The plant species Cotyledon whiteae was named after her by Sch?nland.

List of sources:
Cape of Good Hope. Report of the committee of the Albany Museum, 1887-1907.

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

Heese, J.A. South African genealogies. Pretoria and Stellenbosch, 1986-2008.

Compiled by: C. Plug