Collection BC246 - Fourcade Collection

Reference code



Fourcade Collection


  • 1865-1948 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

ca.200 items

Name of creator


Biographical history

Henry Georges Fourcade was born in France on 8 July 1865 and was educated there until the age of 15, when he came in 1880 to the Cape. While he was employed by the Forestry Department of the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope he passed an examination on the theory of Land Surveying and showed his first interest in Botany, while in charge of the Forest Herbarium. After seven months he was transferred to Knysna as an Assistant Forest officer then was appointed District Forest Officer in 1886 at the age of 21. In 1889 he was seconded to Natal to investigate the possibility of starting a Department of Forestry in the province. In 1890, back in Knysna, he began demarcation survey work, although not a registered surveyor. His work was of such a high standard that his observations were incorporated into Sir David Gill's retriangulation of the Cape Colony in 1901 and the designs of his beacons were adopted as a standard. He remained in the Knysna district as District Forest Officer, being appointed Forest Surveyor in 1902. Although he was the obvious choice for the vacant post of Surveyor-General in 1904 because of his experience and qualifications, he was not appointed but instead offered early retirement on full pension. He was 40 years old. He retired to Witte Els Bosch, where he did private survey work and established a very profitable sawmill. This also began the period of his researches and inventions viz. photogrammetry, i.e. Surveying with the aid of a camera and aerial surveying. He produced the Theory of Relative Orientation and built a model of his stereogoniometer, financed by the British War Ministry. He received no international recognition but his principle was widely used. In 1930 he was awarded an Hon.. D. Sc. by the University of the Cape of Good Hope. In 1940 he produced his stereoprojector, a simpler design for air survey and in 1947 he was awarded an Hon. D. Sc. from UNISA through Rhodes University College for distinguished service to South Africa in the advancement of Science. Besides his other work, he was also a keen amateur botanist with an extensive herbarium. From 1905 he collected in a huge area which included George, Knysna, Humansdorp and Uniondale, for which region he published a checklist of flowering plants in 1941. He worked at and corresponded with herbaria all over the world, including the Bolus Herbarium in Cape Town, the Albany Museum in Grahamstown and Kew in England and eventually has sixteen botanical species named after him. During his long life he wrote articles and letters to the Press on a wide range of subjects, besides survey and botany. These included economics, the Poor White Problem etc. and although his eyesight and health deteriorated in his later years, his output remained impressive. He died in 1948 aged 83 at Humansdorp, near his home Witte Els Bosch.

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Scope and content

Dr Fourcade was meticulous and exacting, and this is very evident in his papers. He filed all incoming correspondence and made longhand copies of the many letters he wrote so that we have a satisfyingly complete picture of his life and work. The bulk of the papers in the bequest concern survey matters, his field notebooks, survey assignments and survey instrument designs, which include the stereogoniometer and stereoprojector. Botanical subjects are next in importance and include H.G.F.'s collecting notebooks, which are still used by botanists, and extensive correspondence with herbaria and botanists all over Southern Africa and the world. There are copies of survey and botanical publications by H.G.F. and other authors; articles and letters to the Press and photographs of himself, colleagues and friends as well as survey and botanical instruments and specimens. See also P.A. Venter's thesis "Henry George Fourcade" 1979


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No restrictions apply

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Language of material

  • English

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  • English



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