S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Fannin, Mr George Fox (plant collection)

Born: 27 February 1832, Dublin, Ireland.
Died: 18 December 1865, The Dargle, Natal, South Africa.

George Fox Fannin, farmer and plant collector, was the fourth child of Thomas and Ellen Fannin, who arrived in South Africa from England with their large family in 1845. After two years in Cape Town they moved to Natal and settled in the midlands, some 30 km north-east of Pietermaritzburg, on a farm which Thomas renamed The Dargle. They were one of the earliest settler families in the region and derived their income mainly from cutting timber on the farm. George Fox served as field cornet for Ward 4, Pietermaritzburg, in 1854-1855. In July 1858 he was granted the farm Rathmines, next to The Dargle, and in 1860 joined his father in a partnership as timber merchants and sawmill owners. Their business was not successful.

George remained in the region for the rest of his short life and never married. He took an interest in the local veld flowers, particularly in orchids and the Asclepiadaceae, and sent many new species to W.H. Harvey* in Dublin. In the preface to Volume 3 of the Flora Capensis (1865) Harvey thanked him for "very interesting collections of plants, including many novelties, made in the neighbourhood of his residence." The plants were pressed by his younger sister, Marrianne E. Fannin*, but Harvey mistakenly assumed she was George's wife and initially attributed the plants to "Mrs G. Fannin". He named the genus Fanninia and several species after them, including a giant Anemone which George had discovered in 1863, Anemone fanninii, and the orchid Disperis fanniniae.

List of sources:
Bayer, A.W. Aspects of Natal's botanical history. South African Journal of Science, 1971, Vol. 67(8), pp. 401-411.

Brain, C.K. Austin Roberst. A lifelong devotion to South Africa's birds and beasts. Cape Town: John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, 1998.

George Fox Fannin. eGGSA library, at http://www.eggsa.org/library/main.php?g2_itemId=1761800 (photo of his gravestone).

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

Harvey, W.H. & Sonder, O.W. Flora Capensis (Vol. 3, Preface). Ashford, Kent: Lovell Reeve, 1894 (originally published 1865).

McCracken, D.P. & McCracken, P.A. Natal, the Garden Colony. Sandton: Frandsen, 1990.

Spencer, S.O. (ed.) British settlers in Natal, 1824-1857 (Vol. 6). Pietermarizburg: University of Natal Press, 1992.

Compiled by: C. Plug