Peter Kolbe

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Portrait of Peter Kolbe, 1727

Peter Kolbe (1675–1726) (also referred to as Kolb, Kolben or Colbe) was sent to the Cape of Good Hope with letters of introduction from Nicolaas Witsen, mayor of Amsterdam, with a mandate to compile a comprehensive description of South Africa and for astronomical and surveying research. Kolbe is best remembered for his publication in 1719 in Nuremberg of Caput Bonae Spei Hodiernum. Kolbe's checklist of the Cape fauna was the first to be published. In the Dutch edition, Naauwkeurige beschryving van de Kaap de Goede Hoop published in Amsterdam in 1727, his account devotes 45 pages to mammals, 22 to birds, 24 to fishes, and 20 pages to snakes, insects and other animals. As did a lot of writers of natural history at the time, he was prone to including exaggerated tales. His discovery and description of a giraffe elicited much interest in Europe, and even though Julius Caesar had brought one to Rome in about 46 BC, no reliable source had produced compelling proof of the existence of this rather improbable creature. [1]

Kolbe was appointed in 1705 as the first official astronomer in South Africa and worked at the Cape between 1705 and 1713, providing a detailed account of day-to-day life at the Cape, also describing the geography, climate, flora and fauna, followed by an accurate study of the Hottentots, covering their language, religion, lifestyle and customs. Kolbe's account was first published in German in Nuremberg in 1719.

"Several beautiful country seats, vineyards and gardens are to be seen on almost every side of the Table-Hill. The Company has here two very spacious, rich and beautiful Gardens. In one of them stands, erected at the Company's Expense, a noble Pleasure-House for the Governor, and near it a beautiful Grove of Oaks, called the Round-Bush from which this Garden (Rondebosch) takes its Name, being called the Round-Bush garden. The other Garden which is at some distance from this is called Newland because but lately planted. Both these gardens are finely watered by the Springs on the Table-Hill and the Company draws from them a very considerable Revenue."[2]


  1. ^ "A History of Scientific Endeavour in South Africa" (Royal Society of SA, 1977)
  2. ^ "RootsWeb: SOUTH-AFRICA-CAPE-TOWN-L Rondebosch - a bit of History Part 3".

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