Dr. William Guybon Atherstone MD, MLC, FGS, FRCS

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William Guybon Atherstone, MD, MLC, FGS, FRCS.

Birthdate: (84)
Birthplace: Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England
Death: June 26, 1898 (84)
Grahamstown, Cape, South Africa
Place of Burial: Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Immediate Family:

Son of Dr. John Atherstone SV/PROG and Elizabeth Atherstone, SM/PROG
Husband of Catherine Handel Atherstone
Father of Mary Catherine de Roebuck; Inez Atherstone; Ida Byde-Martin; Gertrude Dillon; Walter Herschel Atherstone, Dr. and 1 other
Brother of Catherine Damant Cumming; Elizabeth Atherstone; Emily Franklin; John Cradock Atherstone; Dr. John Frederick Korsten Atherstone and 2 others
Half brother of Edwin Atherstone, M.D.; Walter Atherstone; Fanny Hilton-Barber; Harry Atherstone and Charles Sancroft Damant Atherstone

Occupation: Doctor, geologist, naturalist
Managed by: Sally Ann McConnell
Last Updated:

About Dr. William Guybon Atherstone MD, MLC, FGS, FRCS



  • VOLUME_NO 6/9/378
  • SYSTEM 01
  • REFERENCE 1907
  • PART 1
  • STARTING 18980000
  • ENDING 18980000



1820 British Settler

William Guybon Atherstone 5, together with his parents and 3 siblings, were members of Damant's Party of 57 Settlers on the Settler Ship Ocean.

Party originated from Norfolk.

Departed London, 13 December 1819. Arrived Table Bay, Cape Town - 9 March 1820. Final Port - Algoa Bay, Port Elizabeth - 15 April 1920

Area Allocated to the Party : The old Waaiplaats barracks, then to the Gamtoos River. They were located at the source of the Kaffir Kraal River but the location was at once rejected by Lieutenant Damant and they moved to the Gamtoos River, their settlement being called Lammas.

Children :

  • William Guybon Atherstone 5
  • Catherine Atherstone 4
  • Elizabeth Atherstone 3
  • Emily Atherstone 2

Dr William Guyborn Atherstone was a medical practitioner, naturalist and geologist, one of the pioneers of South African geology and a member of the Cape Parliament. In 1857 he published an account of rock and fossils of Uitenhage. He also studied many fossil reptilia from the Karroo beds, and sent specimens to the British Museum. He had rooms in The Observatory in Grahamstown, which it now a museum. Atherstone's identification, in 1867, with the help of Peter MacOwan and HG Galpin, of a crystal found at de Kalk near Hopetown, as a diamond led indirectly to the establishment of the diamond industry of South Africa. It was 21 carats and sold to the governor, P.E. Wodehouse for £500. It was called the 'Eureka stone', meaning "I've found it". He was the founder of the botanical Gardens in Grahamstown which was originally on his property. The Scientific and Literary Society, which he also founded, later became the Albany Natural History Society, now the Albany Museum.


Dr. William Guybon Atherstone, M.D. , M.L.C., F.G.S., F.R.C.S. (1814 - 1898). He was the most celebrated and best-known medical man that South Africa has produced. He had an international reputation not only in the field of medicine but in several of the allies sciences. When only 21 years of age he was Staff Medical Officer in the Sixth Frontier War under Col. (afterwards Sir) Harry SMITH, after which he returned to Europe to study at the Meath Hospital in Paris and at Heidelberg, where he passed his examinations with honours.

When Piet Retief was planning to join the other Voortrekkers in 1838 Dr. John Atherstone and his son W.G. rode together, presumably from their farm "Iron Pot" later called "Atherstone", near Highlands to Riebeck East in the hope that they could dissuade him from leaving. They were unsuccessful, and Retief and his party were subsequently murdered by Dingaan.

During the time that he was practising in Grahamstown, he made medical history by successfully amputating the leg of Mr.Fred Carlisle, Deputy Sheriff of Albany in 1847, using the new anaesthetic diethel ether. This was the first use of this method in any British colony.

Dr. Atherstone was an extremely active man who, in addition to his medical profession and serving as the District Surgeon of Albany, had a wide range of subjects in which he was accomplished, such as music, art, astronomy, geology, botany and natural history. His active mind led him into many of the byways of science, particularly in the field of geology and zoology. He had a wonderful collection of geological specimens, fossils and extensive notes.

The huge saurian which he presented to the British Museum was named Tapio Cephalas Atherstonii by Sir Richard Owen. It was Dr. W.G.A. who made the dramatic announcement of the genuineness of the first S.A. diamond discovered by O'Reilly in 1867 at Hopetown. This 21 caret diamond was purchased for five-hundred pounds by the Gov., P.E. Wodehouse.

Dr. ATHERSTONE devoted considerable time to the inspection of asylums in England in 1875 and he did much to better the conditions of the insane in South Africa. It was on the occasion of this visit to Europe that Dr. W.G.A. was made a F.R.C.S. and a Fellow of the Geological Society, and Honorary Corresponding Secretary of the Colonial Institute. He was elected a Member of the House of Assembly in 1883, and was later raised to the Legislative Council, where he served for ten years. He was founder of the Botanical Gardens in Grahamstown, which were originally on his property. The Scientific and Literary Society, which he also founded later became the Albany Natural History Society, now the Albany Museum.

He was afflicted by blindness in his old age, but this hardship was softened by visits from his many friends. He died in Grahamstown in 1898. He was one of the few men who looked into the future and clearly saw the trend of events. A bust of Dr. W.G.A. modelled by I.M.B. is in the Settler Collection at the Albany Museum.



"Willaim Guybon Atherstone, son of Dr John Atherstone, also became a doctor and was instrumental in the founding of Grahamstown's library, botanical gardens and the Albany Museum.


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Dr. William Guybon Atherstone MD, MLC, FGS, FRCS's Timeline

May 29, 1814
Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England
Age 25
January 1, 1842
Age 27
Grahamstown, Albany, Cape Province, South Africa
Age 30
Age 33
Age 41
Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa
June 26, 1898
Age 84
Grahamstown, Cape, South Africa
Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa