26 September 1897
On 26 September 1897, Prof. James Leonard Brierly Smith was born in Graaff-Reinet in the Cape Province (now Eastern Cape). He studied chemistry at the University of Stellenbosch, and completed his PhD at Oxford. After he returned from Oxford, he began to teach chemistry at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. However, Smith gradually switched over to Ichthyology, the branch of zoology which focuses on the study of fish. During this time, he became a prominent figure in the scientific world when he identified a specimen of coelacanth, an ancient species of fish caught near East London in the Eastern Cape on 22 December 1938. The fish was caught by Hendrik Goosen on his trawler, the Nerine. The fish was first examined by Marjorie Courtney-Latimer who worked at the East London museum. After she sent a sketch of the strange looking fish to Prof. Smith, he identified it as a coelacanth, and named it Latimera chalumna in her honour and after the Chalumna River where it was caught. In 1952, another coelacanth was found in the Comoros Islands, and this time Prof. Smith obtained permission from Prime Minister DF Malan to use one of the air force's Dakota planes to fetch the specimen and bring it back to South Africa. Since then, numerous examples of this ancient, cave-dwelling fish have been found. Prof. Smith was also a prolific author, and wrote many books on fish, such as Sea Fishes of South Africa and Old Four Legs: The Story of the Coelacanth. He died on 8 January 1968.