Andrew Smith (zoologist)

Dr. Sir Andrew Smith KCB (December 3, 1797August 12, 1872) was a Scottish surgeon, naturalist, explorer and zoologist.

Smith was born in Hawick, Roxburghshire. He obtained a good education by diligence and hard work and qualified in medicine at Edinburgh University obtaining an M.D. in 1819, having joined the Army Medical Services in 1816.

South Africa 1820-1837

In 1820 he was ordered to the Cape Colony and was sent to Grahamstown 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 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, nominated Smith as the first Superintendent of the South African Museum of natural history in Cape Town. In 1828 Smith was sent to Namaqualand by Lieutenant-Governor of the Eastern District of the Cape of Good Hope Richard Bourke to report on the Bushmen 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 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 led to an 18 month-long expedition by Smith to Basutoland, Kuruman, the headquarters of Mzilikazi and as far north as the Magaliesberg, Charles Davidson Bell going along as expedition artist. Smith returned with two of Mzilikazi's izinDuna 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 4550857.)

Smith met Charles Darwin (1809-1882) when he touched at the Cape in 1836 on the H.M.S. Beagle. Darwin frequently mentions Smith in his writings and correspondence. Darwin sponsored Smith in his membership of the Royal Society in 1857.

England 1837-1872

Smith returned to England in January 1837 and shortly after 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 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, the director-general of the army medical department, becoming Director-General of the Army Medical Services in 1853 when Sir James retired. He was responsible for the organising of medical services during the Crimean War, amidst serious charges of inefficiency and incompetence from The Times and Florence Nightingale. 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


Search another word or see zoologiston Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature