S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Chubb, Mr Ernest Charles (ornithology, mammalogy, archaeology)

Born: 16 September 1884, London, United Kingdom.
Died: 9 October 1972, Durban, South Africa.
Mr Ernest Charles Chubb

Ernest C. Chubb was the son of Charles Chubb, an ornithologist at the British Museum (Natural History). He was educated at South Western Polytechnic and Birbeck College, London, and showed an early interest in birds and in natural history in general. At the age of seventeen he became assistant to Oldfield Thomas, eminent mammalogist at the British Museum. In 1906 he visited Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), explored the Matopo Hills south of Bulawayo by bicycle, and with F.P. Mennell* discovered a magnificent cave on the southern edge of what is now the Matopos National Park. Early the next year he was appointed as zoologist and assistant curator of the Rhodesia Museum (later the National Museum) in Bulawayo, where Mennell was at that time the only other permanent member of staff. Chubb immediately became active in the Rhodesia Scientific Association, where he was recognized as a skilled naturalist and taxidermist. Already in May 1907 he made some remarks on a paper by H.T. Whybrow* dealing with the antelopes of Southern Rhodesia, which were published in the Association's Proceedings (Vol. 7(1), p. 52). Further contributions by him, on a species of beetle and on the grysbuck, appeared in 1908 (Vol. 7(2), pp. 11-13; 30-31).

Chubb was already a Fellow of the Zoological Society of London at this time, and contributed to several branches of zoology during the four years he spent in Bulawayo. His studies of southern African mammals led to his descriptions of new elephant shrews from Johannesburg and Pondoland in the Annals of the Transvaal Museum (Vol. 1(3), pp. 181, 182) in 1909. In that same year he contributed some mammal skins and other zoological specimens to the Albany Museum, Grahamstown, and received from that institution on loan more than 200 small mammals for study. He contributed a paper "On some little-known South African mammals recently obtained in Rhodesia" to the 1908 meeting of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science, of which he became a member. This paper consisted of notes on ten species and was published in the Associations's Report for 1908 (pp. 171-174). At its next meeting he produced "A revised list of the mammals of South Africa" (Report, 1909, pp. 129-141).

Meanwhile much of his time was devoted to building up the museum's collection of birds. He joined the South African Ornithologists Union in 1907, served on its council from 1909 to 1912, was the vice-president representing Natal from 1913 to 1916, and contributed a number of papers to its Journal. These dealt with, among others, birds he observed and collected in Matabeleland (Vol. 4(2), 1908, two papers), birds collected between Bulawayo and the Tegwani River (Vol. 5(2), 1909), the black-tailed Godwit in Natal (Vol. 7(2), 1911), some birds in the Durban Museum (Vol. 8(1), 1912), and ornithological notes from Natal (Vol. 11(1), 1915). He also contributed a paper on "The birds of Bulawayo" to The Ibis (1909). He discovered and described the Black-eared Seedeater, Poliospiza mennelli, naming it after F.P. Mennell. Three varieties of birds were named after him: Oceanites nereis chubbi (Grey-backed storm petrel), Sylvietta ruficapilla chubbi (Red-capped Crombec), and Mandingoa nitidula chubbi (Green Twinspot). Meanwhile he found time to describe "The batrachians and reptiles of Matabeleland" in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London in 1909.

Chubb's third field of endeavour was archaeology. He joined Mennell in an investigation of the bone deposits of Broken Hill Mine, a site in Zambia that would later become famous for yielding up the remains of Homo rhodesiensis. They wrote up their results in a paper "On an African occurrence of fossil mammalia associated with stone implements" in the Geological Magazine (1907).

In 1910 Chubb became curator of the Durban Municipal Museum, and in 1919 director of the combined Durban Museum and Art Gallery. He reached pensionable age in 1944, but stayed on in his post in temporary service until his retirement at the end of 1951. In 1914 he initiated, and subsequently edited the Annals of the Durban Museum (3 vols, 1917-1947), and in the first volume described the collection of South African birds' eggs assembled by the brothers A.D. and H.M. Millar* (pp. 29-107), a new tsetse fly from Zululand (pp. 253-254), and a new species of bat from Durban (pp. 443-444). However, the vast majority of papers were written by others, and the last of Chubb's zoological notes appeard in Volume 2 (1917-1920). Thereafter he devoted himself mainly to the museum profession. He and his staff contributed to the improvement of South African museums by introducing advanced collection, storage and exhibition methods, including the use of habitat groups for the display of large mammals and birds. He wrote a General guide to the Durban Museum (Durban, 1916), and, assisted by H.G. Mackeurtan, Natal centenary, 1824-1924: Official handbook (Durban, 1924). In 1927 he visited museums and art galleries in the United States and Canada on a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Cubb was vice-president of the South African Ornithologists Union from 1911 to 1916, when it amalgamated with the Transvaal Biological Society to form the South African Biological Society. He continued as joint vice-president of the latter society and was its president in 1927. In 1911 he served as secretary of the short-lived Natal Scientific Society.

He retained an active interest in archaeology into the nineteen-thirties, when he joined G. King* in a study of the pottery, stone artefacts and other remains from middens on the KwaZulu-Natal coast. This investigation resulted in a paper, with Chubb as co-author, in the South African Journal of Science (1932, Vol. 29, pp. 765-769). He and J.F. Schofield* published a paper on rock engravings at Otto's Bluff, Natal, in the same volume. In the same year, with King and A.O.D. Mogg*, he excavated a cave near the mouth of the Umgazana River, on the Pondoland coast. The deposits contained a Late Stone Age industry which they described as a variation of the Smithfield A Culture, associated with bone tools and fish, mammal and plant remains. The results were presented in two papers, a preliminary report in the South African Journal of Science (1933, Vol. 30, pp. 550-551), and a final paper, "A new variation of the Smithfield Culture from a cave on the Pondoland coast" in the Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa (1934, Vol. 22, pp. 205-223).

In 1936 Chubb played a leading role in the formation of the Southern African Museums Association, pointing out the advantages of such an association in an address which was subsequently published in its Bulletin, SAMAB (1936, Vol. 1(1), pp. 2-5). He served as the association's secretary and treasurer, and as editor of SAMAB, from 1936 to 1962, and as president in 1944. In 1945 he was president of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science (having been president of its Section D in 1933), and in 1951 chairman of the South African committee for international cooperation amongst museums. He was also a prominent Rotarian, and a Past Grand Master in the Freemasons. Slim and short of stature, with a lively and colourful personality, Chubb was a popular person. He was married to Gertrude Elizabeth, born Graham, who died in 1964.

List of sources:
Annals of the Durban Museum, 1917-1947, Vol. 1-3.

Ashton, E.H. Southern African Ornithological Society. Bokmakierie, 1980, Vol. 32, pp. 26-76 (whole number 2).

Brain, C.K. & Erasmus, M.C. The making of the museum professions in South Africa. Pretoria: Transvaal Museum, 1986.

Brooke, R.K. E.C. Chubb - an early ornithologist. Honeyguide, 1968, Vol. 54, pp. 9-10.

Cape of Good Hope. Report of the committee of the Albany Museum, 1909.

Goodwin, A.J.H. A commentary upon South African prehistory up to the introduction of the new terminology. Bantu Studies, 1935, Vol. 9, pp. 291-333, bibliography pp. 387-413.

Janse, A.J.T. A short history of the South African Biological Society. South African Biological Society Pamphlet, 1939, No. 10, pp. 49-58.

Maguire, R. A history of Middle and Late Stone Age research in the KwaZulu-Natal coastal area from 1871 to the beginning of the second World War. In J.A. van Schalkwyk (ed.), Studies in honour of professor J.F. Eloff. Pretoria: National Cultural History Museum, 1997.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to Ernest Charles Chubb / E.C. Chubb.

The Naturalist, 1911, Vol. 1, Numbers 5 and 6: Council of the Natal Scientific Society.

Obituary: E.C. Chubb. SAMAB, 1972, Vol. 10(3), p. 93.

Poynton, J.C. The amphibians of southern Africa: a faunal study. Annals of the Natal Museum, 1964, Vol. 17, pp. 1-334.

Quickelberge, C. Collections and recollections. The Durban Natural History Museum, 1887-1987. Durban Natural History Museum, 1987.

Rhodesia Scientific Association. Proceedings, 1907-1908, Vol. 7.

Royal Society of South Africa. Transactions, 1934, Vol. 22, paper by Chubb, King and Mogg.

South African Association for the Advancement of Science. Report for 1908, 1909, 1910.

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

South African Biological Society. Bulletin, 1918, Series 1, No. 1, office bearers.

South African Journal of Science, 1937, Vol. 34, pp. xiii-xix, lists of office bearers of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science.

South African Ornithologists Union. Journal, 1908-1915, Vol. 4-11.

Summers, R.H.F. The history and development of the National Museum of Southern Rhodesia. Southern African Museums Association Bulletin (SAMAB), 1951, Vol. 5, pp. 63-69.

Transvaal Museum. Annals, 1909-1911, Vol. 1-3.

Compiled by: C. Plug