Dr. Hans Merensky

The legacy of Dr. Hans Merensky: Geology to Forestry

Dr. Hans Merensky was born on 16 March 1871, near Middelburg. He was a remarkable man in South Africa’s history, considered not only a “scientist of note, but also an extremely farsighted and thoughtful strategist, agricultural trendsetter, humanitarian and philanthropist”. His first passion was minerals, and was awarded a doctorate in geology from the University of Charlottenburg, Germany.

After retiring in 1932, he turned his skills to sustainable agriculture on his farm, Westfalia. He created a sustainable mixed-farming business incorporating both the establishment of Eucalyptus plantations and sustainable long-term agriculture based on ecologically-sound management of biological ecosystems. This included the conservation and management of water-catchment areas, soil conservation and organic principles of composting. He was internationally recognized as being one of the most progressive thinkers in the field of sustainable farming in his time.

His passion for sustainable forestry and conservation left a legacy for generations to appreciate.

He had a strong interest in supporting the generation of knowledge for the greater good, including in the field of Forest Science. In 1932, he was a major contributor to the establishment of the Department of Forestry, at Stellenbosch University (SU). This greatly boosted the large-scale forestry industry in South Africa.

In 1949, the Hans Merensky Trust was established. This was to ensure the strides he made in water and soil conservation within the agricultural, horticultural and forestry sectors be continued after his death on Westfalia. After his passing on 21 October 1952, as his legacy, a large part of his fortune was allotted to the Hans Merensky Trust. In 1973, the Hans Merensky Foundation (HMF) was established, replacing the Hans Merensky Trust.

The HMLF provides bursaries and grants to institutions for research in both the forestry and agricultural sectors. Sustainable forestry and high-quality science are important parts of the Merensky legacy. As part of their response to continuing this legacy, therefore, the HMLF decided to fund a new research program in 2019: the Hans Merensky Chair in Advanced Modelling of Eucalypt Wood Formation (or HM EucXylo) at SU. Read more about EucXylo here.