S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Elbrecht, Prof Berend (botany)

Born: 1 April 1883, Schildwolde, Groningen, The Netherlands.
Died: 2 October 1954, near Tzaneen, South Africa.

Berend Elbrecht, botanist, was the son of Hendrik Elbrecht and his wife Hillechien, born van der Wolde. He qualified as a teacher and taught for some years at Gorinchem, The Netherlands. In 1912 he came to South Africa on an exchange scheme, to teach at Oost-Eind School in Pretoria. As a naturalist he was mainly interested in botany at this time. From 1915 he taught botany at the Teacher's College in Heidelberg, Transvaal. In 1919 he married Josina Maria Boshoff, with whom he had a son and three daughters.

In 1920 Elbrecht became a lecturer in botany at the Normal College, Pretoria, and in 1923 was appointed in a similar position at the Transvaal University College (from 1930 the University of Pretoria). In collaboration with his wife (also a botanist) he wrote an introductory Afrikaans textbook of botany for schools (1922), for which he made the pen sketches. He also compiled a booklet of new Afrikaans school songs (1920) and a German reader for matriculants (in two parts, 1921, 1924).

Elbrecht was promoted to senior lecturer in 1926 and in 1930 obtained a doctoral degree in botany at the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands, with a thesis entitled Plantstudie onder konstante voorwaardes: 'n Metode toegepas op grasblaarbewegings (Plant study under constant conditions: A method applied to the movements of grass leaves). In 1934 he was appointed professor and head of the Department of Plant Science and Biology at the University of Pretoria. As a botanist he is remembered mainly for his contribution to the maintenance of the botanical garden on the university campus. His expeditions to collect plants for the garden took him, among other places, to the Karoo and the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. On 20 April 2011 a commemorative plaque in his honour was unveiled in the university's Manie van der Schijff Botanical Garden, a ceremony attended by his only remaining child, Mrs Joy Elbrecht-Crous.

Elbrecht became a naturalized South African citizen in 1941. He retired in 1943 and settled on his farm "Lianas" in Magoebaskloof, Limpopo, where he later died.

List of sources:

Meyer, M. Berend Elbrecht plaque unveiled in botanic gardens. http://web.up.ac.za Search for Berend Elbrecht.

National Archives Repository (TAB), Source MHG, Vol. 0, Ref. 6360/54: Death notice, Berend Elbrecht.

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

Ploeger, J. Nederlanders in Transvaal, 1850-1950. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik, 1994.

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

Compiled by: C. Plug