S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science




Fox, Major George Charles (astronomy)

Born: 1864, Bournemouth, United Kingdom.
Died: 9 October 1935, Cape Town, South Africa.

George Charles Fox went to sea for two years after leaving school and was then apprenticed with a firm of engineers in London. After qualifying as an engineer he came to South Africa in 1880, settled in Durban, and was involved in mining activities in Zululand, Swaziland and at Barberton. Following the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand he moved to Johannesburg and became a successful mining engineer, first with Messrs Goertz and Co. and later with Messrs Lewis and Marks. During the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) he served in the Royal Engineers and attained the rank of captain. During World War I (1914-1918) he served in the South West Africa campaign and was promoted to major. At the conclusion of the war he retired from mining and settled in Cape Town.

Fox became a member of the Astronomical Society of South Africa after his arrival in Cape Town. He bought a 260 mm reflector from Mr C.J. Taylor and built a small observatory in his garden in Sea Point with the help of Mr James Hudson. He became an active observer and, as one of the members of a team of observers led by Dr James Moir*, made an intensive study of the planet Mars during its opposition in 1923-4. Moir's report on the work of the Mars Section in the Journal of the Astronomical Society of Society of South Africa (1925, Vol. 1 (6), pp. 196-203) includes 60 drawings, of which 18 were made by Fox. Some account of his work was also published in the English Mechanic.

Fox was a member of the Transvaal Institute of Mechanical Engineers, served on its council for 1906/7, and as joint vice-president for 1907/8. He joined the South African Association for the Advancement of Science in 1903, but his membership appears to have lapsed during World War I. He was described in his obituary as a man of unswerving devotion to duty, who focussed on observable facts rather than theory, and who did not suffer fools gladly.


List of sources:

Journal of the Astronomical Society of South Africa, 1924, Vol. 1(3), pp. 98-100: List of members and associates.

Journal of the Transvaal Institute of Mechanical Engineers, 1906, Vol. 5(1) and 1907, Vol. 6(1): [Office bearers].

Long, A.W. The foundation and development of the Astronomical Society of South Africa. Journal of the Astronomical Society of South Africa, 1930, Vol. 2(4), pp. 153-180.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS), at http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to George Charles Fox.

Obituaries: Major George C. Fox (by Andrew Young). Journal of the Astronomical Society of South Africa, 1937, Vol. 4(2), pp. 74-76.

South African Association for the Advancement of Science. Report, 1903, 1905/6, 1910: Lists of members.


Compiled by: C. Plug


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