Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Du Toit, Alexander Logie (South Africa 1878-1948)

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.

Life Chronology

--born in Rondebosch, South Africa, on 14 March 1878.
--1899: graduates from the Royal Technical College, Glasgow, in mining engineering
--1901: made lecturer at Royal Technical College, and at the University of Glasgow
--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 Artesian Basin
--1914-1915: hydrogeologist for the South African forces during World War I
--1918: president, Geological Society of South Africa
--1920-1927: chief geologist at the Union Irrigation Department, South Africa
--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 Union
--1938: visits India
--1943: made a fellow of the Royal Society of London
--dies at Cape Town, South Africa, on 25 February 1948.

For Additional Information, See:

--Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. 4 (1971).
--Dictionary of South African Biography, Vol. 1 (1976).
--Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society, Vol. 6(18) (1949): 385-395.
--Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London, Vol. 104(3) (1949): xlvi-xlix.
--The South African Archaeological Bulletin, Vol. 4(15) (September 1949): 95-97.
--Nature, Vol. 161(4090) (1948): 426.

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Copyright 2005 by Charles H. Smith. All rights reserved.

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