ATHERSTONE, John, 1826

National Archives, Kew, CO48/86, 3

Cape Town

14 April 1826

My Lord,

The great benefits which have been lately conferred on the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope prove most clearly that a very lively interest in its prosperity continues to exist in Great Britain, and induces a well grounded belief that Your Lordship would be disposed favourably to receive and consider any plan that had for its object the welfare of its inhabitants.

With this impression I beg to state that although numerous and excellent Public Schools have been established in the Colony, yet there is no Institution where knowledge on Philosophical subjects can be obtained, and consequently the most profound ignorance exists with the young Dutch, and others educated here, on all objects of science; this reproach they are most anxious to avert, and last winter pressed me strongly to give a course of lectures on Natural Philosophy and Chemistry, that I deemed it right to make His Excellency Lord Charles SOMERSET acquainted with the fact, and my intention of complying with the wish so generally expressed, should it meet His Excellency's approbation. I have great pleasure in informing Your Lordship that His Excellency promptly and kindly entered into their feelings and encouraged me to the undertaking, first by giving it his patronage and support and afterwards by frequently honoring the lectures with his presence.

This My Lord was the first attempt ever made at the Cape of Good Hope to give Public Lectures on any subject of science; they were orally delivered and aided by demonstrations and experiments, but for further information respecting them I beg to refer you to His Excellency.

I have been frequently requested to continue to lecture, but my professional duties leave me so little time that I find it to be impossible without relinquishing my profession, for which certainly no adequate compensation could be given me by those who might be expected to attend the lectures.

I beg therefore to propose to Your Lordship that a Public School of Natural and Experimental Philosophy and Chemistry may be established and supported at the Cape of Good Hope by the British Government; that the Institution may be provided with all the necessary chemical and philosophical apparatus and that persons of both sexes, when of a proper age, may be admitted free of expence, or for a trifling sum on entrance.

Should this meet the approval of His Majesty's Ministers I shall feel highly honored in being appointed to deliver the lectures and will use every exertion to make them as generally useful as possible.

I have the honor to be My Lord

Your Lordship's most obedient servant


Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in London.