S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

French, Mr George (zoological collection)

Born: 17 October 1855, London, United Kingdom.
Died: 16 February 1956, South Africa.

Mr G. French donated a number of zoological specimens to the South African Museum in Cape Town during the first decade of the twentieth century. In 1903, a rare snake and two rare lizards from around Cape Town, and ants that he collected at Calvinia, Ceres Road and Wellington. In 1907, several snakes, including a valuable one to the museum, Lycophidion capense (Cape Wolf Snake), from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe); many coleoptera collected by him around Grahamstown, and some other insects of various orders. In 1908, some reptiles, some marine invertebrates, and a good number of coleoptera mainly from the Cape Peninsula.

He was probably George French, teacher, scoutmaster and principal of Claremont Public School in Cape Town from 1894 to 1919. When George was five years old both his parents died of cholera while stationed in India. He was then brought up by his grandparents in England, but four years later his grandfather also died. After spending two years in a workhouse he attended King Edwards Orphan School in Witley, Surrey, where he received a good education. At age 15 he enlisted in the army as a drummer boy and was sent to India, where he later became a school master. In 1879 he again joined the army and in July that year was in the medical corps at the battle of Ulundi during the Anglo-Zulu War.

In 1880 French left the army and qualified as a teacher in the Cape Colony. After teaching in various places he became principal of Claremont Public School in Cape Town in 1894, where he remained until his retirement in 1919. In 1908 he formed the first scout troop in South Africa at Claremont. That same year he became a member of the Royal Society of South Africa shortly after it had been constituted, but was no longer a member in 1917. After his retirement he moved around the country teaching and assisting various scout groups. He also kept up his interest in nature, collecting snakes for the snake park in Port Elizabeth. He died shortly after celabrating his 100th birthday.

List of sources:
Cape of Good Hope. Report of the trustees of the South African Museum, 1903, 1907, 1908.

General Directory of South Africa, 1903, 1908, 1909.

George French – First Scoutmaster in South Africa. http://1stclaremont.org.za/our-history/george-french-first-scoutmaster-in-south-africa/ as on 12 december 2016.

Robertson, H. Biodiversity explorers. http://www.biodiversityexplorer.org/people Downloaded 12 December 2016.

Royal Society of South Africa. Transactions, 1908-1910, Vol. 1, list of members.

Compiled by: C. Plug