Guglielmo Martinaglia, SV/PROG (1857 - 1929) MP

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: Issiglio, Canavese, Italy
Death: Died in South Africa
Occupation: Prospector and geologist
Managed by: June Barnes
Last Updated:

About Guglielmo Martinaglia, SV/PROG

Guglielmo Martinaglia discovered Sterkfontein Cave in October 1896 while prospecting on farm Zwartkrans. He enlisted as a volunteer in Col. Camilo Ricchardi's Italian Legion during the Anglo-Boer War

See - http://www.genza.org.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=159&Itemid=360&lang=en

"Guglielmo was born in 1857, the eldest of eight children in the small northern Italian village of Issiglio. His own father Giovanni, was involved in the building of the Simplon Tunnel between Italy and Switzerland, and taught Guglielmo all he knew of mineral engineering and mining. As a young man, he left his birth country to seek his fortune in South Africa. He arrived in Durban in 1879, when the Anglo-Zulu was in full swing. Undeterred, he bought a horse and traveled to Kimberley in pursuit of diamonds.

There he soon achieved fame for opening underground springs and water courses. Soon after this, at the age of 26, he traveled to the Roodepoort area where he obtained mineral rights, and started mining gold. The claims he staked here, he later sold. In the interim he met Maria Magdalena du Plooy at the Paardekraal Festival in 1886, and they were married by C von Brandis, Krugersdorp’s first “Special Landdrost.”

During this time Guglielmo built, with his own hands, the renowned Witpoortjie Hotel in the early 1890’s. This hotel was frequently visited by important travelers like President Paul Kruger and Ian Hamilton. It was after he sold this hotel that he obtained the lease on ground on the farm Zwartkrans in Sterkfontein. After fighting in the Anglo-Broer war on the side of the Boers in the Krugersdorp Commando, Guglielmo struggled to find work in a post-war Transvaal and left for Rhodesia.

At this point he had also lost his wife Maria and all his earthly possessions, causing his young son Giovanni (Jannie) to be sent to the Langlaagte (Abraham Kriel) orphanage. In later years Guglielmo returned to the Rand where he finally passed away in 1929. He was laid to rest in the Roman Catholic cemetery in Burgershoop, Krugersdorp, only a few miles from the Sterkfontein Caves.

His son Jannie would later receive a scholarship to study in Canada and the US, where he obtained his doctorate in veterinary science. Today he is still remembered for his research in the field of tuberculosis.

On 8 October 1996, a 100 years after the discovery of the now famous underground Sterkfontein caves, hundreds of scientists across the world gathered at Sterkfontein to celebrate his landmark discovery. On this occasion Professor Robert Charlton, vice-chancellor of Wits University, unveiled a plaque in honor of Guglielmo at the entrance of the cave.

“We remain very indebted to Guglielmo Martinaglia for his historic contribution to science, in that moment in time,” Tobias concluded".

Guglielmo Martinaglia

  • born 6 September 1857 in the small village of I ssiglio, in the Canavese, between the beautiful valley of Chiusella and the capital of the province, Ivrea, Piedmont.

After completing his military training in the Alpine Brigade, he, like many other Italians in those hard times, he chose to go to seek his fortune in a foreign land. In 1877 he arrived by sea in the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, where it became part of a team of specialists in the Piedmont, as part of a workforce of approximately 4,000 workers of different nationalities, was building the first railway line the island (1877-1882). The Piedmontese had the task of building the railway line in La Montagne, in particular by constructing a tunnel through the mountain, building a series of large stone railway bridges, with great success and with the approval of the English chief. The opening of the tunnel in the mountain with dynamite was not completed without incident. Five Italians were killed by an explosion and are buried on the island.

From Reunion William Martinaglia ventured further and in 1879 landed at Durban, Natal, the main sea port along the east coast of South Africa in what was then the Natal, subject to British control, and is now the province the Kwa-Zulu Natal. At the time of Guglielmo was being Anglo-Zulu tribal war, who were opposed to British colonialism. Having no desire to take part in the fighting, William purchased a horse and headed for Kimberley, the city of diamonds. Here he soon became something of a celebrity for his ability to find underground streams and springs. With these abilities he was able to help many farmers in this semi-desert area of South Africa. was not long and he was invited by Ben van der Hoven, well-known businessman in the diamond fields, to accompany him to Pretoria, where a his friend, Jan Schuitema, he needed someone with his special talent for gold on his farm in Roodepoort (a village to the west of Johannesburg).

Within three weeks Guglielmo found gold, he asked the concessions also for himself, which he later sold, and built the historic Witpoortjie Inn on the main Gold Reef Road in the area. The inn soon became the overnight stopping place for people like the President of the Transvaal Republic, Paul Kruger, the French and British General Ian Hamilton, one of the most famous explorers of Africa.

In 1893 he sold the Inn to an Englishman named Richardson. Guglielmo for 1896 was to be a better year than the last, in which his wife died of an illness just 29 years old, six months after their last born that had been buried. It was in October 1896 that William obtained a lease for a plot of land in an area called Zwartkrans. Had identified the possibility of finding a seam of limestone and it was exactly what he wanted. We decided to lay dynamite on this piece of land and sent his oldest son, John, 8 years old, to take a bit 'of water to drink. Then he set the shelter, attached the dynamite and turned the handle to send the shock that would have caused the explosion. There was an eruption that sent rocks and a cloud of dust in the sky. When the air cleared, William raised his head and saw a big hole on the side of the hill. Meanwhile, John had returned with the water and Guglielmo, very excited, he said: "I found a Cave of Wonders." Looking into the cave, they saw a beautiful white of stalactites and stalagmites. It was like something that you can only see in the movies today of Walt Disney. Deeper in the cave was seen flowing through an underground river.

What lay in the depths of the cave was only to be discovered in 1947 by Dr Robert Broom, who was conducting exploration and research in the bowels of the earth. He was to find a humanoid creature probably walked upright, in scientific terms he called the "Plesiantropus Transvaalensis", better known as "Mrs Ples."

William Martinaglia never saw this great discovery of the origins of mankind as died 5 January 1929 in the nearby town of Krugersdorp. His grave is kept in immaculate condition in the Roman Catholic cemetery known as "Burgershoop Cemetery." "The Man in the Cave of Wonders" is no more, but his legacy remains. His photography and a special gold plaque can be seen in the Museum of the Sterkfontein Caves.

Dr. Robert Broom was right when he said that the Sterkfontein Caves are the anthropological treasure of the world. Philip Tobias Professor of the Department of Anatomy, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, took the research in 1983 and joined by Dr. Ron Clarke. Together they made ​​other discoveries. In 1994 Dr. Clarke found a number of human bones in boxes and forgotten in a warehouse that had been incorrectly classified as containing monkey bones and antelope. Overall, there were enough to reconstruct bones, complete with joints, the lower part and the foot of a Australopithecus, the first of its kind to be discovered. Dr. Clarke called "Little Foot" (Little Foot). In December 1997, the former director of the excavations, Dr. André Keyser, found two skulls of children who were estimated 1.5-2 million years old. The eldest child was Homogeneus of the species, which led to the modern man, while the youngest was a new Australopithecus robustus. The discovery took place at Drimolen. which is close to the Sterkfontein Caves. In December 1998, Dr. Ron Clarke discovered a complete skeleton of a prehistoric ape man buried in the Cave of Sterkfontein. The skeleton was 3.5 million years and with great patience and care it has now been removed from his grave.

Martinaglia But what was John, son of William? The young man won a scholarship to the completion of secondary school and went to study veterinary science at Cornell University in the USA. He further studied in Canada, where he received his doctorate. On his return he joined the staff at Onderstepoort Veterinary School, near Pretoria (capital of South Africa), studying under Dr. Francis Vigil of Cuneo, Piedmont, and Dr. Arnold Theiler, Switzerland (who discovered the cure for the disease wire worm which caused huge losses to sheep heads South Africa). Both were knighted for their achievements in medical research. Due to its excellent track record as a researcher, John was appointed director of the slaughter of Johannesburg, but later became one of the leading researchers on tuberculosis, which still afflicts many in South Africa. His research was conducted at King George Fifth of Durba.

In 1933 John received samples in the Sterkfontein Caves and sent them to the Imperial Institute of Entomology for identification. On 21 June 1933, the Institute reported that the Dipteran Flies submitted belonged to two species of Streblidae 1) Nycteribosca African and 2) Raymondia planiceps. The latter was new to the British Museum. The first, the Museum had previously received only two specimens. John died in Johannesburg May 10, 1967, a day before his seventy-eighth birthday. André Martinaglia translated by Cyrus Best

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Guglielmo Martinaglia, SV/PROG's Timeline

1857
September 6, 1857
Italy
1887
August 15, 1887
Age 29
South Africa
1888
May 11, 1888
Age 30
south Africa
1890
November 14, 1890
Age 33
South Africa
1892
September 15, 1892
Age 35
South Africa
1895
March, 1895
Age 37
South Africa
1899
October 11, 1899
Age 42
South Africa
1902
1902
Age 44
1904
June 30, 1904
Age 46
South Africa