Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Du Toit, Alexander Logie (South Africa
Photo courtesy Geological Survey, Pretoria |
Alexander Du Toit is remembered not only as the main
baton-carrier of Wegenerian continental drift theory in the early 1900s,
but as the most important geologist in the history of South Africa. A
field geologist with observational and synthetic powers of the highest
rank, early in the twentieth century he embarked upon a twenty year study
of the geology of South Africa which produced a series of important books
and articles over the later portion of that period. Securing a grant from
the Carnegie Institution of Washington in 1923, he spent five months in
South America familiarizing himself with the geology of Argentina, Paraguay
and Brazil, and comparing this to the units in South Africa; this led
the publication of his A Geological Comparison of South America with
South Africa in 1927, and the even more celebrated Our Wandering
Continents; An Hypothesis of Continental Drifting in 1937. Du Toit
had some success in convincing Old World geologists of the possibility
of continental drifting but rather less with American observers; it was
not until the plate tectonics revolution of the 1960s that the quality
of his vision was first fully universally acknowledged.
--born in Rondebosch, South Africa, on 14 March 1878.
--1899: graduates from the Royal Technical College, Glasgow, in mining
--1901: made lecturer at Royal Technical College, and at the University
--1903: returns to South Africa; joins the Geological Commission of the
Cape of Good Hope
--1903-1905: maps the Stormberg area of South Africa
--1905-1910: mapping in the old Cape Colony area
--1906: publishes "Underground Water in South-East Bechuanaland" in the
Transactions of the South African Philosophical Society
--1910: D.Sc., University of Glasgow
--1910-1913: engaged in mapping activities along the Indian Ocean coast
--1913: publishes "The Geology of Underground Water Supply" in the Mining
Proceedings of the South African Society of Civil Engineers
--1914: visits Australia to study groundwater geology of the Great
--1914-1915: hydrogeologist for the South African forces during World
--1918: president, Geological Society of South Africa
--1920-1927: chief geologist at the Union Irrigation Department, South
--1923: receives a grant from the Carnegie Institution of Washington to
compare the geology of South America and South Africa
--1926: publishes his The Geology of South Africa
--1927: publishes his A Geological Comparison of South America
with South Africa
--1927-1941: consulting geologist for De Beers Consolidated Mines
--1932: visits North America
--1933: receives Murchison medal from the Geological Society of London
--1937: publishes his Our Wandering Continents; visits the Soviet
--1938: visits India
--1943: made a fellow of the Royal Society of London
--dies at Cape Town, South Africa, on 25 February 1948.
--Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol.
--Dictionary of South African Biography, Vol. 1 (1976).
--Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society, Vol. 6(18)
--Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London, Vol.
104(3) (1949): xlvi-xlix.
--The South African
Archaeological Bulletin, Vol. 4(15) (September
--Nature, Vol. 161(4090) (1948): 426.
Copyright 2005 by Charles H. Smith. All rights
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