S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

De Meuron, Count Charles Daniel (plant collection, zoological collection)

Born: 6 May 1738, St Sulpice, Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
Died: 4 April 1806, La Rochette, Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

Count Charles-Daniel De Meuron, Swiss commander of the De Meuron mercenary regiment, was educated in the canton of Neuchatel and at Rochefort, France. His military career started in 1755, when he joined the Swiss Guard, a regiment of Swiss mercenaries in French service, stationed in Paris. By 1781 he had reached the rank of colonel. In May 1781 he was contracted by the Dutch East India Company to raise a regiment of Swiss mercenaries to protect the company's possessions at the Cape and in the East against the British. He reached the Cape with his regiment in January 1783, after battles with British privateers. As the Cape was adequately guarded at the time, he and his regiment were sent on to Ceylon. They returned to the Cape in about 1785. The regiment was not placed under the command of R.J. Gordon*, who was in charge of Dutch troops at the Cape, and despite their shared interest in natural history De Meuron and Gordon were not on friendly terms. De Meuron returned to Europe in 1786, leaving his brother, Pierre Frederick de Meuron, in command. The regiment remained in the company's service until 1795, when Charles Daniel De Meuron went to Ceylon to oversee its transfer into British service. He retired in 1797 as a major-general in the British army, while his regiment was eventually disbanded in 1816.

After his retirement De Meuron settled in the city of Neuchatel in 1798, where his large collection of natural history specimens from the Cape and India formed the nucleus of the city's natural history museum. A species of heath, Erica meuronii, was named in his honour.

List of sources:

Dictionary of South African biography, Vol. 2, 1972.

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

Linder, A. The Swiss at the Cape of Good Hope, 1652-1971. Basle: Basle Afrika Bibliographien, 1997.

Compiled by: C. Plug