S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Cunningham-Craig, Mr Edward Hubert (geology)

Born: 22 April 1874, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
Died: 24 April 1946, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom.

Edward Hubert Cunningham-Craig was educated at Trinity College, Glenalmond, Scotland, and continued his studies in 1892 at Clare College, University of Cambridge, qualifying as Bachelor of Arts (BA) in the natural sciences. In 1896 he joined the Geological Survey of Scotland and in 1903 was lent to the Colony of Trinidad and Tobago as government geologist. Among others he reported on the colony's oil deposits. In 1907 he resigned his post to become a consulting geologist, especially to oil companies. During the next seven years he did geological work in Iran, Burma, India, Baluchistan, Barbados, Venezuela, Canada, and South Africa.

The South African government asked Cunningham-Craig to independently assess the prospects for finding economically viable oil deposits in South Africa. He arrived in Cape Town on 3 June 1913 and during a three month tour investigated a large number of oil indications, including oil shale and natural gas, all over the country. For parts of his tour he was accompanied by local geologists A.L. du Toit*, G.E.B. Frood*, H. Kynaston*, and T.G. Trevor*. His findings were published in his Report on the petroleum prospects in the Union of South Africa (1914, No. UG3, 28 pp.) Among others he described promising natural gas occurrences near Heidelberg (Transvaal) and on the Natal coalfields, and some small oil shale deposits of good quality, but did not find any significant oil deposits. He suggested that more appropriate prospecting methods be used, that the southern Karoo and the north-north-eastern parts of Natal were the only areas worth further exploration, and that a local oil shale industry should be established.

During World War I (1914-1918) Cunningham-Craig did war duty as a geologist and subsequently continued his work as a consulting geologist until his death in 1946, in Egypt, Ecuador, the East Indies, Romania, Yugoslavia, Java, and the United States. In 1913 he became a founder member and served on the council of the Institution of Petroleum Technologists. He was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of London early in his career and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1916. His publications included many papers and a book that became a classic, Oil finding; an introduction to the geological study of petroleum (London, 1912, 195 pp.; 2nd ed. 1921).

List of sources:

Council for Geoscience. Catalogue of publications of the Geological Survey and government publications dealing with earth sciences (compiled by R.R.M. Price). Pretoria: Council for Geoscience, 1997.

National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

Oxford dictionary of national biography. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Rosenthal, E. South Africa's oil search down the years. Cape Town: Howard Timmins, 1970.

Who was who, Vol. 4, 3rd ed., 1964. London: Adam & Black.

Compiled by: C. Plug