S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Angas, Mr George French (mammalogy, anthropology)

Born: 25 April 1822, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England.
Died: 8 October 1886, London, England.

George French Angas, British artist and zoologist, moved with his parents to Dawlish, Devon, where he developed an early interest in conchology and a talent for drawing. He was employed in a business in London but, having studied as a natural history artist, decided to travel and support himself by drawing. For about eight years as a young adult he travelled to various countries, making numerous drawings, and publishing several books. His first journey took him to the Mediterranean in 1841, and was followed by his first illustrated book A ramble in Malta and Sicily in the autumn of 1841 (London, 1842). In September 1843 he left for South Australia. From there he proceeded to New Zealand, where he covered some 1300 km of foot. Back in South Australia he accompanied Sir George Grey (who later became governor of the Cape Colony) on an expedition into the interior in 1845, making water colour illustrations of the scenery, aborigines, plants and animals. His illustrations of South Australia and New Zealand, and an account of his travels in these countries, were published in Savage life in Australia and New Zealand (1847, 2 vols), South Australia illustrated (1849), and The New Zealanders illustrated (1849).

Angas next travelled to South Africa. He arrived at the Cape before or in February 1847 and spent several months in the Colony during which he is known to have visited Genadendal, Paarl and Somerset West. Later the same year he travelled to Durban, probably by sea. At the end of August 1847 he travelled northward through KwaZulu-Natal and received a friendly reception from the Zulu King Mpande. He made drawings of Zulu subjects, and also kept a journal. At the most northerly point of his journey, at St Lucia Bay, he named a new antelope, the nyala, Tragelaphus angassi in honour of his father, George Fife Angas. Returning to England in 1848, he published his illustrations under the title The Kafirs illustrated in a series of drawings taken among the Amazulu, Amaponda, and Amakosa tribes; also, portraits of the Hottentot, Malay, Fingo, and other races inhabiting Southern Africa: together with sketches of landscape scenery in the Zulu country, Natal, and the Cape Colony (London, 1849).

After his return to England, in 1849, Angas married Alice M. Moran, with whom he had four daughters. That same year he served as naturalist to the Turko-Persian Boundary Commission, but was invalided home. He went to South Australia again later in 1849 and settled in Sydney, where he was director and secretary of the Australian Museum from 1853 to 1860. He returned to England in 1862 and during the next decade published about 20 papers on the shells of Australia and the western Pacific, particularly those of Port Jackson in New South Wales, mainly in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. He also wrote Australia; a popular account of its physical features, inhabitants, natural history and productions (London, 1865) and Polynesia; a popular account of the physical features, inhabitants, natural history and productions of the islands of the Pacific (London, 1866). He was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society in 1866 and was also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and of the Zoological Society of London.

List of sources:
Dictionary of South African biography Vol. 2, 1972.

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

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

Royal Society of London. Catalogue of scientific papers [1800-1900]. London: Royal Society, 1867-1925.

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

Compiled by: C. Plug