Historian, diplomat, educator and author, Prof Stefanus Francois Naudé (SFN) Gie was born in the Western Cape on 13 July 1884. He completed his schooling at Worcester Boys High School before enrolling for a tertiary qualification at the Victoria College in Stellenbosch (today known as Stellenbosch University).
Gie also obtained his teacher’s diploma in Grahamstown before embarking on further academic pursuits at the University of Amsterdam as well as the Humboldt University of Berlin (where he received his doctorate).
Upon returning to South Africa, Gie was employed as a teacher in Cradock and Worcester between 1906 and 1909. This was followed by a two-year period as inspector of schools (1910-1911), as well as a stint as principal of the Teachers’ Training College in Graaff-Reinet for the next few years.
Gie made his return to Stellenbosch during 1918, after a chair of South African History was established at Stellenbosch University (SU) and he was appointed as the professor to occupy it. He held the position until 1925 when he was asked during the first semester to act as chairperson of the Senate in Prof Cillié’s absence. In July he was appointed to the post on a fulltime basis (a position he held for a year).
During his time at SU, Gie completed one of the biggest tasks of his life – the publication of a standard historical work titled Geskiedenis van Suid-Afrika, of Ons Verlede (History of South Africa, or Our Past), which was later renamed Geskiedenis van Suid-Afrika, 1652-1795.
Elsewhere throughout his life, Gie also displayed a passion for cultural and theatrical pursuits. For example, he was a founding member, actor and director for the Graaff-Reinetse Letterkundige en Toneel Vereniging during 1915, in addition to co-directing its debut production. He was also instrumental in establishing Die Voortrekkers.
Following his departure from the University, Gie took up the position as the Union of South Africa’s secretary of education in 1926. Thereafter he served as the South African envoy to Berlin between 1934 and 1939, before being posted in a similar position to The Hague shortly before the start of World War II.
This was followed by a period as South African ambassador in Stockholm (1939-1944) as well as in Washington D.C. (1944-1945), where he passed away on 10 April 1945.