Born Daniël François Malherbe in in Dal Josafat in the Cape Colony, the son of P.J. Malherbe, one of the founding members of the Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners. Having studied at the Victoria College in Stellenbosch he went on to do post graduate work at the universities of Halle and Freiburg in Germany, obtaining a doctorate with a thesis on Das Fremdword im Reformationszeitalter in 1905.
He returned to South Africa to become a lecturer at the Hugenote-Seminarie op Wellington, .
In 1907 he becomes a member of the Afrikaanse Taalvereniging in Kaapstad en helps with the expansion of the society in the Cape Colony.
Appointed as professor in modern languages at the Grey-Universiteitskollege (Grey University College) in Bloemfontein at the request of Gen. J.B.M. Hertzog on 7 February, 1910, he becomes the first professor in Afrikaans language and literature in South Africa in 1912. He later Malherbe served as Rector of the Grey-Universiteitskollege (1929 to 1934 and again in 1941).
He was a member of the Bloemfontein branch of the society Onze Taal from 1910 onwards.
Du Toit, 1988
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