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Erica schumannii
Erica schumannii
Photo by Ted Oliver
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Dolf Schumann


Dolf Schumann
Photo by Gerhard Kirsten

Co-author of a book on South African Ericas
Geologist, President of the Chamber of Mines and Honorary Professor of Engineering
at Stellenbosch University

Adolf Wilhelm Stander 'Dolf' Schumann was born on 8 July in Cape Town in 1918. His father, (P.W.S.) of former German missionary stock, was a school teacher and principal and one of the early Afrikaans playwrights. Dolf graduated with degrees in Mathematics and Physics from Stellenbosch University and in Mining and Metallurgy from the University of Witwatersrand. He then proceeded into the mining industry spending 17 years in the Copperbelt of the then Northern Rhodesia (Zambia).
There he gained much experience in the practical aspects of mining since he started underground as a shift boss determined to have hands-on experience of all procedures and ended up as mine superintendent. While there he was involved with the establishment of the University of Rhodesia. In 1960 he returned to South Africa and joined Federale Mynbou, a large mining house in Johannesburg as their operational manager. With the amalgamation of Federale Mynbou and General Mining he became general manager of the coal and bas metals division and then technical director of the whole group where he earned the reputation for being a top business manager and diplomat and a well-liked person.

His time in the mining and business world culminated in his being elected to the post of President of the Chamber of Mines where he was highly respected by all in his field including the government. At the time he was also a director in some 42 companies associated with the mining industry. He also served on the Atomic Energy Board. He headed the Schumann Commission appointed by government to review the training of engineers at all South African universities. As a result of all this work and his contributions in his field he was appointed an honorary Professor of Engineering at Stellenbosch University, one of the few such honours bestowed by the university.

In July 1978 Dolf retired from the hectic life of the business world in Johannesburg to a wonderful eighth-floor apartment overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Cape Town. He had planned for a quiet restful time with his wife Annie and their two married children and the grandchildren in Cape Town.

In 1980 while on a visit to a relative, Prof Jimmy Orchard, who had retired in the seaside resort of Hermanus, he was taken on a hike in the mountains and introduced to the local Cape Flora which Jimmy was collecting for the Fernkloof Herbarium. Dolf was struck by all the wonderful ericas that were in bloom at the time. Afterwards over a beer he was shown the Erica book by Col. Baker and myself and was "totally bowled over" by ericas. He decided there and then to make a photographic record of every species he could find.

...I suggested he meet up with Gerhard Kirsten, sport editor of the local Afrikaans daily, Die Burger. Gerhard had been collecting and studying ericas for some 15 years and had built up a very good knowledge of many species and where to find them. Thus began a very fruitful partnership between the two of them.

Not long after the book, Ericas of South Africa, was published Dolf realized that he had done all that he could do in this field. The effects of advancing age were starting to become a worry to him. As expected Dolf tackled the problem in his methodical way. All his colour slides were carefully sorted through and checked before being donated to the Compton Herbarium at Kirstenbosch. His apparatus was given to friends who would value their origin and make full use of them. His wonderful collection of minerals was donated to the Tulbagh Museum. All this was completed before he moved to a small flat overlooking the golf course in Helderberg Village, Somerset West, where he died peacefully on 9 August 2001.
Dolf Schumann became Honorary Professor of Stellenbosch University in 1979.


Ericas of South Africa (Co-author: Gerhard Kirsten; with the collaboration of Ted Oliver and most of the photos by Dolf Schumann)
Fernwood Press, 1992

This text by Ted Oliver is part of the obituary he published in Flora&Fauna, June 2002. Read the full text

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