S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science




Charters, Major Samuel (geology)

Born: 1795, United Kingdom.
Died: 6 September 1866, Pistoja, Italy.

Samuel Charters was a British soldier who joined the Royal Artillery at an early age. He served as a subaltern at the Cape around 1814-1816, and was promoted to captain in the latter year. In January 1838, now Major Charters, he arrived at the Cape as military secretary to the new Governor, Sir George Napier. From March that year he accompanied Napier on a seven month tour of the frontier districts. Later that same year he was sent to occupy Port Natal with about 100 men, to prevent arms from reaching the Voortrekkers through the port and prevent further clashes between them and the Zulus. He arrived on 4 December 1838, took possession of Port Natal, declared martial law in the area, confiscated all arms and ammunition, appropriated some buildings for the use of his troops, and set up an enclosed encampment later named Fort Victoria. On 20 January 1839 he set off on his return journey overland to Cape Town, after handing over command to Captain H. Jervis. He reached Grahamstown in February 1839 and returned to England in the second half of that year. His account of his experiences in South Africa and the problems faced by its inhabitants was published in the monthly United Service Journal and Naval and Military Magazine from September 1839 to February 1840.

Charters made some geological observations during his brief stay in Natal and on the return journey. In July 1845 Andrew G. Bain*, in a letter to the President of the Geological Society of London, refers to him as the person "who saw the ammonites near Natal", along the coast - presumably in the Cretaceous strata near the mouth of the Mtamvuna River (discovered in 1825 by H.F. Fynn*). Of more interest is Charters's article, "On a deposit of greenstone overlying sandstone in South Africa", which appeared in the Proceedings of the Geological Society of London, (1838-1842, Vol. 3, p. 102).


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

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

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.


Compiled by: C. Plug


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