S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science




Duthie, Miss Augusta Vera (botany)

Born: 18 July 1881, Belvidere Estate, near Knysna, South Africa.
Died: 8 August 1963, Belvidere Estate, near Knysna, South Africa.

Augusta Vera ("Avie") Duthie, botanist, was the daughter of Archibald H. Duthie and his wife Augusta Vera Roberts. She grew up on the family's farm Belvidere, on the Knysna Lagoon. After matriculating in 1898 she moved to Wellington to study botany (under Dr Bertha Stoneman*), physics and mathematics at the Huguenot College, graduating as Bachelor of Arts (BA) through the University of the Cape of Good Hope in December 1901. On 1 April the next year she was appointed as a lecturer at Victoria College (from 1918 Stellenbosch University), where she founded the Department of Botany. She appears to have been the first university lecturer who was trained entirely in South Africa. Subsequently she was promoted to senior lecturer and served as head of the department until the appointment of Gert C. Nel, one of her former students, as professor of botany and head of the department in March 1921. During these years she developed the department from scratch, with its own botanical museum, herbarium of the Stellenbosch district, and facilities for morphological research. She was an effective and popular teacher, and had many friends among local and overseas botanists. A second lecturer, Sidney Garside*, was appointed to assist her at the beginning of 1912. Following Professor Nel's appointment her administrative work declined and her teaching was confined mainly to the morphology of the autotrophic Cryptogammae (ferns, mosses, algae and fungi).

After further study as a private student the University of the Cape of Good Hope awarded her the Master of Arts (MA) degree in botany in December 1910. She spent the year 1912 at Cambridge, England, and the year 1920 in Australia. In 1929 the University of South Africa (successor to the University of the Cape of Good Hope) awarded her the degree Doctor of Science (DSc) for her thesis Vegetation and flora of the Stellenbosch flats.

Duthie published her first scientific paper, "Anatomy of Gnetum africanum" in the Annals of Botany in 1912. During the next few years she developed into an active researcher, concentrating on the flora of the Stellenbosch flats. As a result of her painstaking efforts the flats became the most intensely studied botanical area in the country. The results of her studies were published in a number of papers in the Annale van die Universiteit van Stellenbosch between 1924 and 1940. She described 13 new plant species from this region, among them five belonging to the genus Urginea (family Liliaceae; Ibid, 1928), two Eriospermum (family Liliaceae; Ibid, 1924, 1940), and three mosses of the genus Isoetes (Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa, 1929). Three further papers dealt with the morphology of the species Selaginella pumila (one of the "resurrection plants"; Ibid, 1922-1924). She also made an excellent collection of the Myxomycetes (slime moulds) and described this group of fungi in the Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa in 1917. Two of her papers dealt with her studies of South African Ricciaceae (an order of liverworts; Ibid, 1936, 1939).

Duthie became a member of the South African Philosophical Society in 1906. She remained a member when this society became the Royal Society of South Africa in 1908, and was elected a Fellow of the latter in 1926. She joined the South African Association for the Advancement of Science in 1917. During the nineteen-thirties she was a member of the Cape Natural History Club.

After the death of her last remaining brother in 1933, Duthie became responsible for the management of the family farm. She retired from the Department of Botany at the end of 1939, but stayed on until August 1940, when she settled at Belvidere. The plant genus Duthiastrum and several species were named after her: Restio duthieae by N.S. Pillans*, and Romulea duthieae, Psilocaulon duthieae, Ruschia duthieae, Stomatium duthieae and Impatiens duthieae by H.M.L. Bolus*. In addition Duthie's Golden Mole (Chlorotalpa duthieae) was named after her by Dr Robert Broom*. Her collection of bryophytes (liverworts and mosses) was left to the Bolus Herbarium, while the flowering plants and fungi she collected went to the herbarium of the Department of Botany at Stellenbosch, the Compton Herbarium in Cape Town, the herbarium of the Albany Museum, Grahamstown, the National Herbarium in Pretoria, and the National Collection of Fungi of the Plant Protection Research Institute in Pretoria. A small area (2.6 ha) of the Stellenbosch flats, where she did much of her field work, was assigned to the Department of Botany as a field reserve by the university, and named the Duthie Reserve. Documents relating to her life and work are kept in the Cape Town Archives Repository and in the National Library of South Africa, Cape Town Campus.


List of sources:
Annale van die Universiteit van Stellenbosch, Afdeling A, 1924-1940, Vol. 2-18, papers by Duthie.

Beolens, B., Watkins, M. & Grayson, M. The eponym dictionary of mammals. JHU Publishing, 2009.

The Cape Naturalist, 1934, Vol. 1(1), pp. 25-28, [Cape Natural History] Club roll.

Google scholar. http://scholar.google.co.za Publications by A.V. Duthie.

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

Heese, J.A. South African genealogies. Pretoria and Stellenbosch, 1986-.

Jordaan, P.G. A.V. Duthie en haar bydrae tot die plantkunde [with list of publications]. Journal of South African Botany, 1967, Vol. 33, pp. 47-57.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to Duthie, Augusta Vera / Duthie, A.V.

Royal Society of South Africa. Transactions, 1908-1937, Vol. 1-24: Lists of Fellows and members, and papers by Duthie.

South African Association for the Advancement of Science. Report, 1917, list of members and paper by Duthie.

South African Philosophical Society. Transactions, 1907, Vol. 17, list of members.

South African who's who, 1931/2, 1936, 1939.

Thom, H.B. et al. Stellenbosch 1866-1966: Honderd jaar hoer onderwys. Kaapstad: Nasionale Boekhandel, 1966.

Union catalogue of theses and dissertations of South African universities, 1918-1984. Microfilm copy, University of South Africa.

University of the Cape of Good Hope. Calendar, 1903/4 to 1917/8.


Compiled by: C. Plug


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