S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Champion, Rev George (geology, physical geography)

Born: 3 June 1810, Winchester, Connecticut, United States.
Died: 17 December 1841, Santa Cruz, West Indies.
Active in: SA.

George Champion graduated at Yale University in 1831 and completed his theological studies at the Andover Newton Theological Seminary in 1834. In December of that year he left Boston as a missionary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to work in Natal. He arrived in Cape Town on 6 February 1835, but his journey to Natal was delayed on account of the Sixth Frontier War (1834-1835). During his stay in Cape Town he wrote "Remarks on the topography, scenery, geology, etc. of the vicinity of the Cape of Good Hope", which was published in the American Journal of Science and Arts (1836, Vol. 29, pp. 230-236).

After short stays at Bethelsdorp and Algoa Bay Champion arrived in Natal in December 1835. He obtained permission from the Zulu king Dingane to establish a mission near present day Durban, established a mission station also in Zululand and worked among the Zulus until deteriorating relations between Dingane and the European settlers forced him to leave in March 1838. The journal he kept during these turbulent times became an important historical document. In October 1838 he was still in Port Elizabeth, but arrived back in Boston in April 1839. He was unable to return to Natal because of poor health.

After working in the Congregational Church in Dover, Massachusetts, for two years Champion moved to Santa Cruz for health reasons and died there the same year, aged 31 (Dictionary of South African biograhy). In the Royal Society of London's Catalogue of scientific papers (1967-1925) he is credited with several subsequent papers on the natural history of Ceylon and Hong Kong, published between 1843 and 1855, but these were written by another person with the same name.

An account of his life and work was published in the US in 1896 as Rev. George Champion, pioneer missionary to the Zulus: sketch of his life and extracts from his journal, 1834-1838. His journal of this period was later also published in Cape Town as Journal of the Rev. George Champion, American missionary in Zululand, 1835-1839 (1967).

List of sources:
Dictionary of South African biography, Vol. 3, 1977.

Du Plessis, J. A history of Christian missions in South Africa (1911). Reprinted Cape Town: Struik, 1965.

Hall, A.L. Bibliography of South African geology to the end of 1920. Pretoria: Geological Survey, Memoir No. 18, 1922.

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

South African bibliography to the year 1925. London: Mansell, 1979.

Tabler, E.C. Pioneers of Natal and South Eastern Africa, 1552-1878. Cape Town: Balkema, 1977.

Compiled by: C. Plug

Last updated: 2020-04-23 17:30:14