S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Buchenroder, Mr Wilhelm Ludwig von (geology, plant collection)

Born: 21 February 1782, Germany.
Died: 19 November 1846, Uitenhage district, Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Wilhelm Ludwig von Buchenroder was the eldest son of Baron Friedrich von Buchenroder, who arrived at the Cape with his family in May 1803. Wilhelm became a second lieutenant in the Hottentot Light Infantry in April 1804 and was promoted to first lieutenant a year later. In 1810 he applied for permission to establish a fishery and cut timber at Algoa Bay. He appears to have been well educated and was active in public affairs. In 1813 he was awarded contracts to erect three government buildings in Grahamstown, but was unable to complete them within the specified time. By 1816 he was a general dealer in Uitenhage, where he also built the courthouse and two residences. He bought half of the Zwartkops River Waggon Drift farm in the Uitenhage district in 1815, renaming it Perseverance. Later he also obtained the adjoining farm Coega, but was not successful as a farmer. He requested a deed of burghership in 1818. By 1833 he was insolvent and was heavily in debt when he died.

Von Buchenroder was an active member of the South African Institution (Cape Town, 1829-1832), the first society for the advancement of fundamental science in southern Africa. His main contribution to science was "An account of the earthquakes which occurred at the Cape of Good Hope during the month of December, 1809", which was published in the first issue of the South African Quarterly Journal (pp. 18-25) in 1829. He gave a full account of the effects of the various shocks, particularly at Cape Town, Jan Beesjie's Kraal and Blaauwberg Valley, and provided a table with daily values of the atmospheric pressure, temperature and wind conditions for the 4th to the 27th of the month in question. Some damage was done to buildings, and cracks and holes opened in the ground near Blaauwberg, from which muddy water was ejected. This paper was also published in the Philosophical Magazine in 1831.

Another paper published in the same issue of the South African Quarterly Journal was an English translation by von Buchenroder, of the "Diary of a journey made by governor Simon van der Stell to the country of the Amaquas, in the year 1685" (pp. 39-48, continued in No. 2, pp. 189-200). After the South African Institution had amalgamated with the South African Literary Society in 1832 to form the South African Literary and Scientific Institution, he was still a member of the latter.

In 1828 von Buchenroder and C.H. Grisbrook* investigated marine fossils on the eastern bank of the Zwartkops River and obtained "some very fine specimens", according to Grisbrook.

Although no botanical specimens are known to have been collected by Von Buchenroder, W.H. Harvey* described him in 1838 as "a zealous botanist" who had supplied many plants to Ecklon* and Zeyher*. They named the genus Buchenroedera in his honour.

He died on his farm Perseverance. According to J.C. Chase*, "his intellectual powers, extensive knowledge of the affairs of the Colony, his amiability of temper and gentlemanly manner, rendered him a special favourite with all those who had the pleasure of his friendship or acquaintance". He was married twice and had several children.

List of sources:
Dictionary of South African biography, Vol. 4, 1981.

Geni: Wilhelm Ludwig von Buchenroder, at http://www.geni.com/people/Wilhelm-Von-Buchenröder/6000000016690176213 Retrieved 2016-1-13.

Grisbrook, [C.H.] Notes on South African geology. South African Quarterly Journal, 1830, No. 4, pp. 446-447.

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

Hoge, J. Personalia of the Germans at the Cape, 1652-1806. Archives Yearbook for South African History, 9th year. Cape Town: Cape Times, 1946.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to Wilhelm Ludwig von Buchenroder.

Regulations of the South African Literary and Scientific Institution (pp. 13-14: List of members). Cape Town: G. Greig, 1832.

Robinson, A.M.L. None daring to make us afraid: A study of English periodical literature in the Cape Colony from its beginnings in 1824 to 1835. Cape Town: Maskew Miller, 1962.

Rogers, A.W. The pioneers in South African geology and their work. Transactions of the Geological Society of South Africa, 1937, Annexure to Vol. 39, pp. 1-139.

South African Commercial Advertiser, 7 October 1829, p. 2, South African Institution.

South African Quarterly Journal, 1829, No. 1: von Buchenroder's papers, and p. 84.

Compiled by: C. Plug