Science News a Century Ago


    Royal Geographical Society: Early Exploration Efforts During the summer of 1833 the Council of the Royal Geographical Society had been actively engaged in promoting, with the countenance and patronage of His Majesty's Government, two exploring expeditions, leaving England, it was contemplated, in July of the following year, or near that date. The first of these was an expedition of discovery in South Africa by means of exploration up one of the rivers falling into Delagoa Bay. With the approval of the Society (which was chargeable With much of the expense) the task was entrusted to Capt. James Alexander, an adventurous young officer who in after life achieved much national fame. What sum of knowledge resulted from the project is a story revealing the uncertainties attending early geographical effort, however well planned in advance. The honorary secretary to the committee appointed to organise the expedition was Mr. W. Desborough Cooley, a fellow, and sometime first secretary, of the Hakluyt Society. In the opinion of Dr. H. R. Mill (“Record”, Roy. Geog. Soc., 1930), Mr. Cooley was “an erratic genius”. He had never, Mill tells us, travelled, but supported himself by writing about all parts of the earth. Devoting himself mainly to Africa, Mr. Cooley recorded and criticised the work of explorers, whilst upholding fantastic theories of the geography of the continent, even against the assertions of those who had actually traversed various tracts. However, rimeh kindly appreciation was entertained finally, the Society securing for him a Civil List pension of £100, terminated in 1883 by his death.

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    Science News a Century Ago. Nature 134, 153 (1934).

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