S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Francis, Mr H F (ornithology, mammal collection)

Born: Date not known, Place not known.
Died: 1901, South Africa.

Mr H.F. Francis of Komatipoort, Transvaal, was a labour agent who recruited labourers in Mozambique for the gold mines during the late eighteen-nineties. In 1894 he donated 77 very well prepared bird skins, collected in the Lydenburg district, to the South African Museum, Cape Town. He followed this up the next year with several mammals and a good series of bird skins from around Komatipoort. In 1897 he again donated a collection of bird skins from Komatipoort, several of the species being new to the museum's collection. The next year H.F. Francis and his brother W. (or W.F) Francis donated a collection of birds and mammals from Inhambane, Mozambique. Some of the mammals were new to the collection, including a giant shrew then named Nesotragus livingstonianus, which was new also to southern Africa. Nine of the birds were new to the museum. In 1899 the two collectors donated a further 50 bird skins from Inhambane (6 by H.F. and 44 by W. Francis). In recognition of their contributions both were named "correspondents" of the museum (of which there were only nine at this time), which meant that they would receive the museum's publications free of charge.

In 1899 W.L. Sclater* of the South African Museum published a paper entitled "On a collection of birds from Inhambane, Portuguese East Africa, with field notes by H.F. Francis" in The Ibis (Vol. 7, pp. 111-115, 283-286). Of the 25 species mentioned two were believed to be new to science, including the long-tailed flycatcher Erythrocercus francisci, named after the brothers. It is now considered a local race of Livingstone's flycatcher, Erythrocercus livingstonei. Three more were new to the South African fauna.

The two brothers served with the British forces during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) and were both killed, H.F. Francis in 1901 and his brother in 1900.

List of sources:

Beolens, B., Watkins, M. & Grayson, M. The eponym dictionary of birds. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014.

Cape of Good Hope. Report of the trustees of the South African Museum, 1894, 1895, 1897-1899.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to H.F. Francis.

Summaries of some recent botanical and zoological papers referring to South Africa. Transactions of the South African Philosophical Society, 1902, Vol. 11(4), pp. 383-418.

Compiled by: C. Plug