S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Eberlanz, Mr Friedrich Gustav (plant collection, insect collection)

Born: 2 August 1879, Witten, near Bochum, Germany.
Died: 23 September 1966, Luderitz, Namibia.

Friedrich Gustav Eberlanz, naturalist, was the son of Friedrich Wilhelm Eberlanz and his wife Christiane Johanna Carolina, born Emde. He was trained as a decorator and set up his own business, but in May 1914 emigrated to German South West Africa (now Namibia) and settled in Luderitz. However, when the territory was conquered by South African forces during the early part of World War I (1914-1918) he was interred at Pietermaritzburg, returning to Luderitz in 1916. He later became a South African citizen.

For some 50 years Eberlanz spent his spare time exploring the desert around Luderitz on foot and eventually became an expert on the southern Namib. Among others he discovered a cave near Luderitz which was named the Eberlanz Cave, and excavated a skeleton which might be that of a Guinean woman left on the coast by B. Dias* almost five centuries earlier. He collected plants, animals, stone artefacts, and rocks and minerals, sending specimens to scientific friends and acquaintances such as the botanists M.K. Dinter* and H. Herre. Plant specimens also went to the Botanischer Garten und Botanischer Museum in Berlin, including a number of lichens. He also maintained a collection of living succulent plants. In 1927 he established a small museum in Luderitz and in 1960 presented his entire collection to the municipality, to form the nucleus of the Luderitz Museum.

Although Eberlanz was a modest person who shunned publicity, in September 1926 he became a founding member of the Vereinigung fuer Landes- und Voelkerkunde (from 1928 the Heimatkundliche Vereinigung). He was elected an honorary member of the South West Africa Scientific Society in 1962. He did not publish any scientific papers, but shared his findings with others and wrote a short, typed account of the natural history of the Luderitz region, entitled Aus Luderitzbuchter Vergangenheit, which was distributed privately. The genus of vygies Eberlanzia and the succulent Lithops eberlanzii were named after him, as were the beetles Psammodes eberlanzii and Cardiosis eberlanzii, both of the family Tenebrionidae.

In 1905 Eberlanz married Justine Marie Lemgo, with whom he had three children. She died in 1950.

List of sources:

Dictionary of South African biography, Vol. 3, 1977.

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

National Archives Repository (TAB), Source MHG, Vol. 0, Ref. 4246/67: Death notice, Friedrich Gustav Eberlanz

Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa (SESA). Cape Town: NASOU, 1970-1976.

Compiled by: C. Plug