S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Wilson, Mr James Fox (hydrology)

Born: Date not known, Place not known.
Died: Date not known, Place not known.

James F. Wilson delivered a paper, "On the increasing dessication of inner southern Africa", at the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1864. The next year he published a paper on "Water supply in the basin of the River Orange, or Gariep, South Africa" in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (1865, Vol. 35, pp. 106-129) . He providef extensive qualitative evidence that southern Africa was gradually drying up, and identified veld burning, overstocking, and trekking from one waterhole to another as the main causes. To address the problem he recommended the damming of smaller streams and the encouragement of appropriate vegetation to reduce evaporation.

The belief that central southern Africa was becoming dryer persisted for many decades. For example, in an editorial review of local desertification, published in the Agricultural Journal of the Union of South Africa in 1912, Wilson's paper is cited as having proved beyond doubt that the Kalahari is drying up. The belief was gradually disproved by rainfall records. For schemes to improve the rainfall of the Kalahari see F. Gessert* and E.H.L. Schwarz*.

List of sources:
Mendelssohn, S. South African bibliography (2 vols). London, 1910.

Royal Society of London. Catalogue of scientific papers [1800-1900]. London: Royal Society, 1867-1925.

Venter, R.J. Bibliography of regional metereological literature. Vol. 1. Southern Africa, 1486-1948. Pretoria: Weather Bureau, 1949.

Compiled by: C. Plug