Thomas Robertson Sim

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Thomas Robertson Sim (25 June 1858 in Northfield, Aberdeenshire, Scotland 23 July 1938 in Durban, Natal) was a botanist, bryologist, botanical artist and Conservator of Forests in Natal, best known for his monumental work The Forests and Forest Flora of The Colony of the Cape of Good Hope which appeared in 1907. He was the eldest of five children of John Sim (1824-1901), a noted bryologist and Isabella Thomson Robertson (1823-). [1]

Aberdeenshire Council area of Scotland

Aberdeenshire is one of the 32 council areas of Scotland.

<i>The Forests and Forest Flora of The Colony of the Cape of Good Hope</i>

The Forests and Forest Flora of The Colony of the Cape of Good Hope, is a botanical reference book written and illustrated by Thomas Robertson Sim, and published in 1907 by Taylor & Henderson of Aberdeen. At the time he was the Conservator of Forests of Natal, and had been the District Forest Officer in King William's Town, bringing a wealth of experience to the creation of this monumental work. Sim had previously written a great many books such as "Handbook of Kaffrarian Ferns", "The Ferns of South Africa" and "Botanical Observations on the Forests of Eastern Pondoland". He was a Fellow of both the Linnaean Society and the Royal Horticultural Society, with sterling credentials for producing this extensive flora of the Cape.

Bryology Branch of botany concerned with the study of bryophytes

Bryology is the branch of botany concerned with the scientific study of bryophytes. Bryologists are people who have an active interest in observing, recording, classifying or researching bryophytes. The field is often studied along with lichenology due to the similar appearance and ecological niche of the two organisms, even though bryophytes and lichens are not classified in the same kingdom.


Education and career

Attended Old Aberdeen grammar school until 1873 and in 1874 was given special tuition at Marischal College, University of Aberdeen. In that same year he served as apprentice gardener in the Royal Horticultural Society's gardens in Chiswick. In 1878 he was appointed to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew where he received a training in botany under Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker. In 1879 he worked for a year in the Harvard University botanic gardens in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Here he was influenced by Asa Gray and George Lincoln Goodale. Subsequently, he worked for a year in the garden of Colonel Peabody of Milton, Massachusetts. Returning to Scotland in 1881, he assisted his father on the farm at Inchmark from 1884-1888.

Old Aberdeen human settlement in United Kingdom

Old Aberdeen is part of the city of Aberdeen in Scotland. Old Aberdeen was originally a separate burgh, which was erected into a burgh of barony on 26 December 1489. It was incorporated into adjacent Aberdeen by Act of Parliament in 1891. It retains the status of a community council area.

Marischal College

Marischal College is a large granite building on Broad Street in the centre of Aberdeen in north-east Scotland, and since 2011 has acted as the headquarters of Aberdeen City Council. However, the building was constructed for and is on long-term lease from the University of Aberdeen, which still uses parts of the building to house a museum and for ceremonial events. Today, it provides corporate office space and public access to council services, adjacent to the Town House, the city's historic seat of local government. Many Aberdonians consider Marischal College to be an icon of the "Granite City" and to symbolise the zenith of Aberdeen's granite-working industry.

University of Aberdeen university in Aberdeen, United Kingdom

The University of Aberdeen is a public research university in Aberdeen, Scotland. It is an ancient university founded in 1495 when William Elphinstone, Bishop of Aberdeen and Chancellor of Scotland, petitioned Pope Alexander VI on behalf of James IV, King of Scots to establish King's College, making it Scotland's third-oldest university and the fifth-oldest in the English-speaking world. Today, Aberdeen is consistently ranked among the top 200 universities in the world and is ranked within the top 30 universities in the United Kingdom. In the 2019 Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings, Aberdeen was ranked 31st in the world for impact on society. Aberdeen was also named the 2019 Scottish University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide.

In 1889 he took up the post of curator of the King William's Town botanical garden. In September 1894 he became a Government Forester with the Cape Forestry Department and started work at Fort Cunynghame Plantation near Döhne. Within a few months he was promoted to Superintendent of Plantations in the Eastern Conservancy, and by 1898 to District Forest Officer with headquarters at King William's Town.

King Williams Town Place in Eastern Cape, South Africa

King William’s Town is a town in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa along the banks of the Buffalo River. The town is about 60 kilometres North West of the Indian Ocean port of East London. The town is part of Buffalo City in the Eastern Cape.

Döhne is a South African agricultural research station 6 kilometres north of Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape. It is noted for having developed the Döhne Merino from Peppin Merino ewes and German mutton merino sires in 1939. The program bred for high fertility, rapid lamb growth and fine wool production under pastoral conditions. The breed was introduced to Australia in 1998.

In 1902 he established a forest department in Natal, and became its first Conservator of Forests in 1903, with headquarters in Pietermaritzburg. In 1907 he travelled to London as representative of the South African Products Exhibition. In 1908 he was asked to visit Portuguese East Africa and later wrote a report on forest utilisation, which appeared as Forest Flora and Forest Resources of Portuguese East Africa, which was lavishly illustrated with his own line drawings.

Pietermaritzburg Place in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Pietermaritzburg is the capital and second-largest city in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It was founded in 1838 and is currently governed by the Msunduzi Local Municipality. Its Zulu name umGungundlovu is the name used for the district municipality. Pietermaritzburg is popularly called Maritzburg in Afrikaans, English and Zulu alike, and often informally abbreviated to PMB. It is a regionally important industrial hub, producing aluminium, timber and dairy products, as well as the main economic hub of Umgungundlovu District Municipality. The public sector is a major employer in the city due to the local, district and provincial governments being located here. It is home to many schools and tertiary education institutions, including a campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. It had a population of 228,549 in 1991; the current population is estimated at over 600,000 residents and has one of the largest populations of Indian South Africans in South Africa.

In 1908 he ventured into the commercial world by setting up a nursery in Pietermaritzburg, and advising on tree planting and large-scale afforestation, also venturing into the timber and wattle-growing industries, being a founder member of the Wattle Growers' Association and Cedara College of Agriculture.

Cedara College of Agriculture is an agricultural college and research station near Howick, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, founded partly by Thomas Robertson Sim. The foundation stone of the "School of Agriculture and Forestry" was laid on 28 April 1905. The original prospectus advertised lectures in Forestry, Horticulture, Dairying, Veterinary Science, Chemistry, Elementary Mathematics, Bookkeeping, Farm Surveying, Zoology, and Fish Husbandry.

He was elected F.L.S., F.R.H.S. and F.R.S.S.Afr. and in 1919 received an honorary D.Sc. from the University of South Africa. He was also a constant supporter of the S.Afr.Assoc. for the Adv. of Science, contributing regularly to their journal. Attending one of their meetings in Rhodesia in 1920, he suffered stroke which left him partially paralysed, but despite the handicap, continued with his work. He relinquished all his business interests and devoted all his time to finishing his opus magnum, a comprehensive study of trees in Southern Africa up to the Zambesi and Cunene Rivers. Death intervened and the unfinished manuscript is still kept at the National Botanical Research Institute in Pretoria, which also houses his library.

University of South Africa largest university on the African continent

The University of South Africa (UNISA), known colloquially as Unisa, is the largest university system in South Africa by enrollment. It attracts a third of all higher education students in South Africa. Through various colleges and affiliates, UNISA has over 350,000 students, including international students from 130 countries worldwide, making it one of the world's mega universities and the only such university in Africa.

The National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) is a research institute of CSIR in Lucknow. It is engaged in the field of taxonomy and modern biology.

Sim is commemorated in Simia, a genus of liverworts and numerous specific names.

Thomas Robertson Sim should not be confused with the agronomist James Taylor Robertson Sim (1903-1968), who was the son of TR Sim's brother, James Sim, also for many years a forestry officer.

This botanist is denoted by the author abbreviation Sim when citing a botanical name. [2]



  1. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 June 2012. Retrieved 22 December 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. Brummitt, R. K.; C. E. Powell (1992). Authors of Plant Names. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. ISBN   1-84246-085-4.

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