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Basil Schonland

Basil Ferdinand Jamieson Schonland, South African physicist (Grahamstown, Cape Colony 01 February 1896 – Winchester, Hampshire 24 November 1972)


Considered as world’s greatest authority on lightning

Studied electric fields under thunderclouds

Elucidated the complex nature of the lightning flash and the time-sequence of its component strokes

Unravelled the complex sequence of events in the flash and correlated with the measurements of electric field changes at ground level

First showed that a flash consist of several strokes and measured the time interval between them

With D.J. Malan & H. Collens established a pattern of flash sequences of strokes now universally accepted (1935)

First linked radio atmospherics with lightning (1935)

Explained why spires and towers are more vulnerable to be struck by lightning

A new electroscope. Proc. Camb. Phil. Soc. 25:340, 1929

With P.G. Gane. A lightning flash counter. Trans. S. A. I. I. I. 38:119, 1947

With P.G. Gane. The ceraunometer. Weather, June 1948

With D.J. Malan. An electrostatic flux meter of short response-time for use in the study of transient field-changes. Proc. Phys. Soc. B 63:402, 1950

His father, Selmar Schonland, German-born South African botanist (Bad Frankenhausen, Thuringen 15 August 1860 - Grahamstown, Cape Province 22 April 1940)

Son in law of mycologist Peter MacOwan

Introduced and published the technique of wax embedding and serial cutting with the microtome into botanical research (1886)

Described three genera (today invalid) and about 250 new plant species



Spinosity of plants. S. Afr. J. Nat. Hist. 6:101-7, 1927

On the absorption of water by the aerial organs of some succulents. Trans. R. Soc. S. Afr. 1:395-401, 1910

With C. W. Mally. Disease in pineapples. Agric. J. Cape (1901)

Plant-animal symbiosis. Nature 52:597, 1895

Modification of Pagan's "growing slide". Ann. Bot. 2:227-31, 1888-9

The apical meristem in the roots of Pontederiaceae (1888)


On protective coloration in some South African animals

Nesting habits of Tockus melanoleucus. Trans. S. Afr. Phil. Soc. 18:1-7, 1909

Notes on the Chacma Baboon and the Maanhaar Jackal. The Zoologist (1897)

Snake cannibalism. Nature (1894-5)

The Zebra stripes. Nature (1892)


On some implements and ornaments of South African native races made from stone and bone. Records of the Albany Museum 2:18-23, 1907

Hottentot and Bushman pottery. Records of the Albany Museum (1903)

Art amongst natives of South Africa (1894)

On some supposed Bushman inscriptions and rock-carvings found in Bechuanaland. Trans. S.Afr. Phil. Soc. 9:19-20, 1896

On some human skulls in the collection of the Albany Museum. Trans. S. Afr. Philos. Soc. (1894)


Schoenlandella Cameron 1904 (Hymenoptera)