S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science




Bradshaw, Dr Benjamin Frederick (ornithology, entomology)

Born: Date not known, Place not known.
Died: 1883, Place not known.

Dr Benjamin F. Bradshaw, naturalist and British physician for a steamship company, came to southern Africa in 1870 and applied for a licence to practise as a surgeon in the Cape Colony. Subsequently he requested an appointment as district surgeon at Mossel Bay (1871). From 1872 to1877 he was employed by the explorer George C. Westbeech along the Zambezi River. By 1879 he was in Klerksdorp, from where he applied for a position in the South African Republic (Transvaal). In 1880 he again asked to be appointed to a district surgeoncy in the Republic, but appears to have been unsuccessful. That same year he returned to Cape Town, requested to be appointed as surgeon to the Cape Mounted Rifles, but finally accepted an appointment as surgeon to the Northern Border Police Force of the Cape Colony. He died three years later.

Bradshaw's applications for posts in various places may have been motivated by his interest in natural history, particularly ornithology. In 1870 he published a paper on "Habits of the Coran Bustard (Eupodotus afra)" in The Zoologist. The next year he donated an important collection of birds' eggs to the Albany Museum, Grahamstown. The collection included eggs of birds of the Cape Colony, marine birds, and some 60 species of British birds. He was elected a corresponding member of the Albany Natural History Society (wich managed the Albany Museum) in October 1871.

In January 1880 Bradshaw read a paper on "The tsetse fly" before the South African Philosophical Society, though he was not a member. Among others the paper dealt with the connection between the tsetse fly and sleeping sickness. It was based on his own observations during several years' travel in southern Africa as far north as the Victoria Falls, and was published in the society's Transactions (Vol. 2, Part 1) for that year. In March 1882, at another meeting of this society, Roland Trimen* read notes from a letter by Bradshaw on the birds of the Orange River. Meanwhile he had visited present day Botswana and published his "Notes on the Chobe River, South Central Africa", with a sketch map, in the Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society (1881). His notes dealt with the lower 60 km of the river, the tsetse flies he found on the south bank of the river only, the climate, river floods, and the local inhabitants.

In the annual Report of the South African Museum for 1883 it is noted that Dr. Benjamin F. Bradshaw of the Northern Border Police, a liberal contributor to the museum in ornithology, had died during the year.


List of sources:

Beolens, B., Watkins, M. & Grayson, M. The Eponym Dictionary of Birds. Bloomsbury, 2014 (via internet).

Cape of Good Hope. Catalogue of the natural history collections of the Albany Museum, Grahamstown (Appendix to Parliamentary Report G24-'83). Cape Town: W.A. Richards & Sons, 1883.

Cape of Good Hope. Report of the committee of the Albany Museum, 1871.

Cape of Good Hope. Report of the trustees of the South African Museum, 1883.

Cape Monthly Magazine, December 1871, p. 382, Albany Natural History Society.

Mendelssohn, S. South African bibliography. London, 1910.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to Benjamin Frederick Bradshaw/Dr B.F. Bradshaw.

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

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


Compiled by: C. Plug


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