Andrew Smith (zoologist)
Sir Andrew Smith KCB
Order of the Bath
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate mediæval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath...

 (December 3, 1797 – August 11, 1872) was a Scottish
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

Surgery is an ancient medical specialty that uses operative manual and instrumental techniques on a patient to investigate and/or treat a pathological condition such as disease or injury, or to help improve bodily function or appearance.An act of performing surgery may be called a surgical...

, explorer, ethnologist and zoologist
Zoology |zoölogy]]), is the branch of biology that relates to the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct...

. He is considered the father of Zoology in South Africa having described many species across a wide range of groups in his major work, Illustrations of the Zoology of South Africa.

Smith was born in Hawick
Hawick is a town in the Scottish Borders of south east Scotland. It is south-west of Jedburgh and south-southeast of Selkirk. It is one of the farthest towns from the sea in Scotland, in the heart of Teviotdale, and the biggest town in the former county of Roxburghshire. Hawick's architecture is...

, Roxburghshire. He obtained a good education by diligence and hard work and qualified in medicine at Edinburgh University obtaining an M.D.
Doctor of Medicine
Doctor of Medicine is a doctoral degree for physicians. The degree is granted by medical schools...

 degree in 1819, having joined the Army Medical Services
Army Medical Services
The Army Medical Services is the organisation responsible for administering the four separate corps that deliver medical, veterinary, dental and nursing services in the British Army...

 in 1816.

South Africa 1820-1837

In 1820 he was ordered to the Cape Colony
Cape Colony
The Cape Colony, part of modern South Africa, was established by the Dutch East India Company in 1652, with the founding of Cape Town. It was subsequently occupied by the British in 1795 when the Netherlands were occupied by revolutionary France, so that the French revolutionaries could not take...

 and was sent to Grahamstown
Grahamstown is a city in the Eastern Cape Province of the Republic of South Africa and is the seat of the Makana municipality. The population of greater Grahamstown, as of 2003, was 124,758. The population of the surrounding areas, including the actual city was 41,799 of which 77.4% were black,...

 to supervise the medical care of European soldiers and soldiers of the Cape Corps. He was appointed the Albany district surgeon in 1822 and started the first free dispensary for indigent patients in South Africa. He led a scientific expedition into the interior and was able to indulge in his interests of natural history and anthropology. On several occasions he was sent by governors on confidential missions to visit Bantu tribes beyond the frontier, such as his trip to Kaffraria
Kaffraria was the descriptive name given to the southeast part of what is today the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Kaffraria, i.e. the land of the Kaffirs, is no longer an official designation...

 in 1824 when he made copious notes on the customs of the Xhosa tribes. In 1825 the Governor of the Cape Colony, Lord Charles Somerset
Lord Charles Somerset
General Lord Charles Henry Somerset PC was a British soldier, politician and colonial administrator. He was governor of the Cape Colony, South Africa, from 1814 to 1826.-Background:...

, nominated Smith as the first Superintendent of the South African Museum of natural history in Cape Town
Cape Town
Cape Town is the second-most populous city in South Africa, and the provincial capital and primate city of the Western Cape. As the seat of the National Parliament, it is also the legislative capital of the country. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality...

. In 1828 Smith was sent to Namaqualand by Lieutenant-Governor of the Eastern District of the Cape of Good Hope Richard Bourke
Richard Bourke
General Sir Richard Bourke, KCB was Governor of the Colony of New South Wales, Australia between 1831 and 1837.-Early life and career:...

 to report on the Bushmen
The indigenous people of Southern Africa, whose territory spans most areas of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia, and Angola, are variously referred to as Bushmen, San, Sho, Barwa, Kung, or Khwe...

 there. As a result Smith wrote On the origin and history of the Bushmen in 1831. In the same year of 1831 there were rumours of serious unrest in the east, causing Governor Sir Lowry Cole to send Smith to Natal
Natalia Republic
The Natalia Republic was a short-lived Boer republic, established in 1839 by local Afrikaans-speaking Voortrekkers shortly after the Battle of Blood River. The republic was located on the coast of the Indian Ocean beyond the Eastern Cape, and was previously named Natalia by Portuguese sailors. The...

 in January 1832. Here he interviewed Dingaan and reported back to Cole, arousing a great deal of interest in the business world of the Cape. It was mainly his report that caused Britain to annex Port Natal in 1844 and turn it into a Crown colony. Similarly in 1833 the reports of traders from North of the Orange River
Orange River
The Orange River , Gariep River, Groote River or Senqu River is the longest river in South Africa. It rises in the Drakensberg mountains in Lesotho, flowing westwards through South Africa to the Atlantic Ocean...

 led to an 18 month-long expedition by Smith to Basutoland
Basutoland or officially the Territory of Basutoland, was a British Crown colony established in 1884 after the Cape Colony's inability to control the territory...

, Kuruman
Kuruman is a town with 12,701 inhabitants in Northern Cape province of South Africa, famous for its scenic beauty and the Eye of Kuruman, a geological feature bringing water from deep underground to the surface in the Kalahari Desert....

, the headquarters of Mzilikazi
Mzilikazi , also sometimes called Mosilikatze, was a Southern African king who founded the Matabele kingdom , Matabeleland, in what became Rhodesia and is now Zimbabwe. He was born the son of Matshobana near Mkuze, Zululand and died at Ingama, Matabeleland...

 and as far north as the Magaliesberg
The Magaliesberg is a mountain range extending from Pretoria in the north of the Gauteng Province to a point south of Pilanesberg, in the North West Province, South Africa...

, Charles Davidson Bell
Charles Davidson Bell
Charles Davidson Bell was the Surveyor-General in the Cape, an artist, heraldist, and designer of Cape medals and stamps.-Life history:...

 going along as expedition artist. Smith returned with two of Mzilikazi's izinDuna
InDuna is a Zulu title meaning advisor, great leader, ambassador, headman, or commander of group of warriors. It can also mean spokesperson or mediator as the izinDuna often acted as a bridge between the people and the king...

 who forged an alliance with the Cape Colony on behalf of their chief. Smith's Report of the expedition for exploring Central Africa was published in 1836. Strangely, except for two short reports that appeared after his return to Cape Town from the interior in 1836, no detailed account of his travels was ever published. Smith's diary however was later edited by Percival R. Kirby and published by the Van Riebeeck Society in 1939-40 as Nos. 20 and 21 of their first series, under the title The Diary of Dr. Andrew Smith, Director of the 'Expedition for Exploring Central Africa', 1834-36. (OCLC
OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. is "a nonprofit, membership, computer library service and research organization dedicated to the public purposes of furthering access to the world’s information and reducing information costs"...


Smith met the young geologist Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

 when the second voyage of the Beagle touched at the Cape in May 1836, and showed him slate rock formations. He also gave Darwin some rock samples he had collected the year before. These are now held by the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences
Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences
The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, opened in 1904, is the geology museum of the University of Cambridge in England. It is part of the Department of Earth Sciences and is located on the University's Downing Site in Downing Street, central Cambridge, England.The Sedgwick has a collection of more...

. corresponded with Smith about how the large animals in South Africa lived on sparse vegetation, showing that a lack of luxuriant vegetation did not explain the extinction of the giant creatures whose fossils Darwin had found in South America. Darwin frequently mentioned Smith in his writings, and sponsored him to gain membership of the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 in 1857.

England 1837-1872

Smith returned to England in January 1837 and shortly afterwards started publishing the five volumes making up Illustrations of the Zoology of South Africa (1838-50). He advanced rapidly through the ranks of the medical service, becoming staff surgeon and principal medical officer at Fort Pitt, Chatham
Fort Pitt, Kent
Fort Pitt was a fort built between 1805 and 1819 on the high ground of the boundary between Chatham and Rochester, Kent. It did not last long, becoming a hospital for invalid soldiers in 1828, with an asylum added in 1849...

 in 1841. In 1844 he married his housekeeper Ellen Henderson and converted to her Roman Catholic faith. In 1845 he became assistant to Sir James McGrigor
Sir James McGrigor, 1st Baronet
Sir James McGrigor, 1st Baronet was a Scottish physician and considered to be the man largely responsible for the creation of the Royal Army Medical Corps. He served as Rector of the University of Aberdeen.-Early life:...

, the director-general of the army medical department, becoming Director-General of the Army Medical Services
Army Medical Services
The Army Medical Services is the organisation responsible for administering the four separate corps that deliver medical, veterinary, dental and nursing services in the British Army...

 in 1853 when Sir James retired. He was responsible for the organising of medical services during the Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

, amidst serious charges of inefficiency and incompetence from The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

and Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale OM, RRC was a celebrated English nurse, writer and statistician. She came to prominence for her pioneering work in nursing during the Crimean War, where she tended to wounded soldiers. She was dubbed "The Lady with the Lamp" after her habit of making rounds at night...

. A commission of inquiry exonerated him and he received honours from universities and learned societies. Ill-health forced his resignation in 1858, when he was created Knight Commander of the Bath.

Correspondence with Charles Darwin


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