S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Conrath, Mr Paul (plant collection)

Born: 3 September 1861, Steinschoenau, Bohemia, now in the Czech Republic.
Died: 14 March 1931, Graz, Austria.

Paul Conrath, chemist and naturalist, was educated at the German Technical High School in Prague, where he was also an assistant during 1885-1887. He published papers (in German) on the flora of Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic, 1886), the flora of Banja Luka and some other regions of Bosnia (1887-1888, in six parts), and a visit to the Alps (1889), in the Oesterreichische Botanische Zeitschrift; also a paper on some bivalve fossils of Silurian age (1888). During these years he worked as a chemist at the dynamite factory in Bratislava (Pressburg in German).

In 1895 he came to South Africa as assistant manager of the dynamite factory at Modderfontein, north-east of Johannesburg. As the manager of the factory was on leave just before the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), Conrath was in charge when the Transvaal was occupied by the British. He seems to have had much leisure time as a result of the occupation, for he made extensive collections of plants on the factory estate and in surrounding areas. Thus the site became associated with the descriptions of many new plant species from the Transvaal. This is fortunate, as the factory, now owned by African Explosives and Chemical Industries Ltd, is still surrounded by an extensive open area for safety reasons, which is managed as a nature reserve. Conrath collected plants as far as Irene and Witpoortjie, while a few species were collected at Durban. He sent specimens to the herbarium of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, England, which were acknowledged in the preface to Volume 4.1 (1909) of the Flolra Capensis.

Conrath left South Africa for Austria in 1902, where he later became director of the dynamite factory at Bratislava. He continued his plant collecting and published descriptions of new plant species in Kew Bulletin in 1908 and 1914. Some 15 plant species were named after him, including Rhus conrathii and Cleome conrathii (by J. Burtt Davy*) and Senecio conrathi (by N.E. Brown*).

List of sources:
Gilliland, H.B. On the history of plant study upon the Witwatersrand. Journal of South African Botany, 1953, Vol. 19, pp. 93-104.

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

Paul Conrath. In Wikipedia: La enciclopedia libre. https://es.wikipedia.org

Royal Society of London. Catalogue of scientific papers. London: Royal Society, 1867-1925.

Thiselton-Dyer, W.T. (ed.) Flora Capensis, preface to Vol. 4.1. London: L. Reeve, 1909.

Compiled by: C. Plug