S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Enislie, Mr (fossil collection)

Born: Date not known, Place not known.
Died: Date not known, Place not known.

According to Rev. George Thom* (1830) "Mr Enislie", described as "a merchant formerly of Cape Town", was the first person to recognise and collect fossils in the older geological strata of the South African interior, in 1804 or 1805. (Fossil shells had been recognised in raised beaches and other recent deposits along the coast by W. Paterson* in 1779, and what were probably trace fossils were observed near Calvinia by H. Lichtenstein* in 1803). The discovery was made at the Keizie Baths, behind Cogman's Kloof, where fossil shells were found in the Bokkeveld strata. These rocks are of Devonian age, that is, 395 to 345 million years old. The collector's notes on the strata, as well as the fossil shells, were made available to Thom.

Although "Mr Enislie" has been recognised as the discoverer of the fossils of the Bokkeveld Group by later authorities such as Rogers (1937) and MacRay (1999), a computer search of the Cape archives and a search of several lists of the inhabitants of the Cape at the time of the discovery reveals no trace of anyone named Enislie. The name is probably a misprint, perhaps for that of the prominent Cape merchant John Elmslie.

List of sources:
MacRae, C. Life etched in stone. Fossils of South Africa. Johannesburg: Geological Society of South Africa, 1999.

Rogers, A.W. The pioneers in South African geology and their work. Transactions of the Geological Society of South Africa, 1937, Annexure to Vol. 39, pp. 1-139.

Thom, G. Remarks on the geology of South Africa. South African Quarterly Journal, 1830, No. 3, pp. 269-271.

Compiled by: C. Plug