Google+ Badge

Greg Nwoko Historic Blog

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Sir Albert Ernest Kitson KBE, CMG (21 March 1868 – 8 March 1937) was a British/Australian Geologist and Naturalist, winner of the Lyell Medal in 1927.

Albert Kitson joined the Public Service in Victoria in 1886 as a clerk. Whilst still employed in this function he also carried out geological field work. This fired a passion and encouraged him to take up part-time studies in geology at the Working Men's College (now the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) and subsequently at the University of Melbourne. By 1903, he had risen to become second-in-command of the Geological Survey of Victoria of which he subsequently became senior geologist and for a time acting director. He contributed a number of studies on the mineral resources of Victoria and the Glacial beds of Tasmania. In 1907, Albert Kitson recommended that the Buchan Caves in Gippsland, Victoria be set aside as a reservation to protect them from vandalism.

After his initial work in Victoria, Kitson spent much of his subsequent professional life in Africa. Recognising his geological talents Professor J. W. Gregory recommended him for a post as Principal mineral surveyor in Southern Nigeria where he went on to discover coal and lignite. In 1909 he discovered black bituminous coal along the Enugu-Udi escarpment in Nigeria and high hopes were placed in such a potentially important coal deposit. The town of Port Harcourt was built in 1912 as an outlet for this Nigerian coal and was linked with Enugu via a railway line that extended northwards to Kaduna. The Enugu coal fields went into production in 1915 and caused an important immigration of population to Enugu earning the town the nickname of the 'Coal City'. The Nigerian coal turned out to be of poor quality and was used mainly for domestic consumption within the colonies, providing an important power resource for the railways and electricity.

Although Kitson's mission was to discover mineral deposits which might be exploited by the British Colonial authority he always combined this with a paternalistic concern to improve the material situation of the local populations. In 1912, after hearing a lecture by J.P. Unstead about the climatic conditions for wheat cultivation in North America, Kitson's response was to ask whether Unstead's findings might be applied to Nigeria. Kitson argued: "Could a wheat-growing industry be established it would be a great boon to the people of West Africa". In paternalistic tones he went on: "It might in Northern Nigeria replace to a large extent the less valuable millet now grown there, while in Southern Nigeria it could materially supplement the staple foods- cassava, yams and maize".

After Nigeria, Kitson continued his explorations in Africa, along with Edmund Thiele, working particularly in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) between 1913–30 where he was first Principal of the Mineral Survey and afterwards Director of the Geological Survey. Kitson travelled round the colony by train and bicycle and discovered sizeable mineral deposits including bauxite and manganese.The first manganese ore which he discovered was in May 1914 when he found occurrences near the Sekondi-Kumassi Railway about 6 miles (9.7 km) from Tarkwa.These deposits were important to Britain's war effort, as supplies of these minerals from other locations had become difficult. During the last year of the war 32 000 tons of manganese, used in munitions production, were shipped to Britain from the deposits Kitson had found in the Gold Coast.[4] Then in February 1919, together with his colleague E.O.Teale (formerly Thiele), he discovered on the Birrim River the first deposits of diamonds to be found in the Gold Coast. The diamonds were of small size but high quality. Kitson observed that they were good crystals showing octahedron and dodecahedron. This proved to be a particularly valuable source of diamonds and the exportation of diamonds grew spectacularly. In 1934 the 2,172,563 carats (434.5126 kg) of diamonds exported from the Gold Coast accounted for 39% of the world's supply that year.

Kitson is also associated with the development of hydro-electric power in the Gold Coast/Ghana. In 1915 he was the first to recommend building a dam at Akosombo on the Volta River to generate hydro-electricity, hoping to use this to process the bauxite deposits which he had discovered in the Kwahu plateau the previous year. It was not until 1965 that the idea of the dam was put into effect when Ghana's first black president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, decided to generate hydropower as a means of modernizing the economy. This development created Lake Volta, the largest man-made lake in the world.


Post a Comment