S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Alexander, Dr Raymond Albert (Veterinary science)

Born: 29 July 1899, Germiston, South Africa.
Died: 8 July 1965, Pretoria, South Africa.
Dr Raymond Albert Alexander

Raymond A. Alexander qualified as a veterinarian at the Transvaal University College (from 1930 the University of Pretoria) in 1925, after obtaining a BSc (Agriculture) degree at the same institution in 1922. In 1935 he was awarded the DVSc degree, also by the University of Pretoria. From 1927 to 1928 he was a researcher at the Allerton Laboratory in Pietermaritzburg and from 1928 to 1949 in the Virology Section of the Veterinary Research Institute, Onderstepoort. In 1931 he studied virology at the Strangeways Institute, Cambridge, and from 1958 to 1961 he was Professor of Infectious Diseases at the Onderstepoort Faculty of Veterinary Science. During 1950-1961 he was also Director of Veterinary Services and after his retirement, from 1961 to 1965, advisor to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

As an eminent researcher in virology Alexander developed various viral vaccines, including a polyvalent attenuated vaccine against African horsesickness based on neurotropic mouse-brain adapted virus strains and an egg-adapted bluetongue vaccine. With W.O.D. Neitz* he developed the heartwater blood vaccine still in use today. With J.H. Mason* of the South African Institute for Medical Research and Neitz he took up the study of human rickettsias as a guide to the handling of the disease in animals, describing their work in four papers published consequtively in the Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Science and Animal Industry (1939, Vol. 13(1), pp 19-77).

As an outstanding leader in his field Alexander became internationally involved in later years, inter alia giving expert advice to the Egyptian government in 1944 on African horsesickness and to the USA government in 1953 on bluetongue. In 1955 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science (DSc) degree by the University of Cape Town, and in 1957 was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa. He was an honorary professor of the University of Madrid, an honorary member of the Medical Association of South Africa, and in 1961 was elected an honorary member of the Section of Comparative Medicine of the Royal Society of Medicine. He was the author or co-author of more than 60 scientific publications. No published reference list is available but a few representative publications are the following, all in the Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Science and Animal Industry: "The immunization of horses and mules against horsesickness by means of neurotropic virus of mice and guinea pigs" (with P.J. du Toit*, 1934, Vol. 2(2), pp. 375-391; "Studies on the neurotropic virus of horsesickness" (in four parts, 1935, Vol. 4(2), pp. 291-397); and "The attenuation of bluetongue virus by serial passage through fertile eggs" (1947, pp. 231-241).;

List of sources:
Findlay, G.H. South African tick-bite fever (1931-1981). South African Medical Journal, 26 December 1981, Vol. 60, pp. 998-1000.

Obituary. Journal of the South African Veterinary Medical Association, 1965, Vol.36, p.411.

Obituary. Scientiae, August 1965, p. 17.

Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Science and Animal Industry, 1933-1939, Vol. 1-13, papers by Alexander.

Posthumus, P.J. Past Veterinarians in South Africa, 10th Edition, 1990, Vol.1, p. 1.

University of Cape Town. Honorary degrees awarded. http://www.uct.ac.za/about/honours/degrees/graduates

Compiled by: C.M. Cameron