S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Dunstan, Prof Wyndham Rowland (mineralogy, plant production)

Born: 24 May 1861, Chester, England.
Died: 20 April 1949, Slough, England.

Wyndham R. Dunstan was a British chemist, but was educated abroad. His first appointment, in 1879, was as assistant in chemistry at the School of Pharmacy of the (British) Pharmaceutical Society. He became professor of chemistry at the school in 1886, but also lectured in chemistry in relation to medicine at Oxford University from 1885. From 1892 to 1900 he lectured in chemistry at St Thomas Hospital Medical School in London. In addition, from 1896, he was director of the scientific and technical department of the Imperial Institute in London, and director of the whole institute from 1903 to his retirement in 1924. He was both an excellent teacher and an active researcher. During the first part of his career his research pertained to the chemistry of compounds used in medicine, methods for the standardisation of medical preparations, and pharmacology. This work was reported in some 80 scientific papers published between 1884 and 1900. At the Imperial Institute he helped to establish mineral surveys in Ceylon, Nigeria, and Nyassaland (now Malawi), as part of an effort to collect and disseminate information on the mineral and vegetable resources of the British Empire. Some of the reports he issued during his directorship dealt with cotton cultivation in the British empire (1904); the results of the mineral surveys in Ceylon (1905), Northern Nigeria (1906), Southern Nigeria (1906), and Malawi (1908); the organic resources of Cyprus (1905); and the quality of cotton grown in the Cape Colony and the Zoutpansberg district of the Transvaal (1908).

Most of Dunstan's research was published in the Bulletin of the Imperial Institute. Although he does not seem to have visited southern Africa, a number of his papers in the Bulletin related to the mineral resources of the region, including: "Oil shale from Natal" (1903); "Minerals from north-east Rhodesia and British Central Africa" (1904); the coal-fields of Cape Colony" (1905); "Recent developments in Portuguese East Africa" (including mineral resources, 1907); "Chromite and other minerals from Rhodesia" (1907); "Iron ore from Natal" (1908); "Chromite ore from the Transvaal" (1909); "Magnesite from Southern Rhodesia" (1912); "Asbestos from South Africa" (1915); "Minerals from Rhodesia" (1918); "The iron ores of South Africa" (1920); and "Raw materials for the ceramic industry in South Africa" (1920). One of his papers, "The market for South African asbestos" was published in the South African Mining Journal for October 1915.

Dunstan's investigations of vegetable resources led, among others, to the publication of five short papers relating to sub-Saharan Africa in Volume 5 of the Transvaal Agricultural Journal, between October 1906 and July 1907: "Report of native fibres from the Transvaal"; two reports on Sansevieria fibres from British East Africa; "Report on a sample of silk cotton from Madagascar"; and "Report on Hypoxis rigidula" (Fam. Amaryllidaceae).

Dunstan became a member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1885 and served on its council in 1905. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1893, and was a member of the society's council from 1905 to 1907. In February 1907 he was appointed as the second Transvaal representative on the executive committee of the South African Products Exhibition. In 1914 he served as president of the International Association of Tropical Agriculture. He was also a vice-president of the Chemical Society. In 1888 Oxford University awarded him an honorary Master of Arts degree, and in 1904 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by the University of Aberdeen. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in 1913 and a Knight Commander of the same order (KCMG) in 1924.

List of sources:
British Association for the Advancement of Science. Report of the seventy-fifth meeting... South Africa, 1905, list of members.

Hall, A.L. A bibliography of South African geology to the end of 1920. Pretoria: Geological Survey, Memoir No. 18, 1922.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to Wyndham Dunstan / W.R. Dunstan.

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.

Transvaal Agricultural Journal, 1906-1907, Vol. 6.

Compiled by: C. Plug