In 1884 he participated in an exploratory expedition to German Southwest Africa that was organized by German merchant Adolf Lüderitz (1834-1886). For the next few years Schinz undertook extensive scientific studies of the northern parts of the colony. As a result of the expedition, he published Deutsch-Südwestafrika, Forschungsreisen durch die deutschen Schutzgebiete Groß- Nama- und Hereroland, nach dem Kunene, dem Ngamisee und Kalahari, 1884-1887 (German South West Africa: Research Expedition of Herero and Nama Country, the Kunene Region, Lake Ngami and the Kalahari; 1884-1887). This work was an important scientific, geographic and ethnographic study of the colony, and was one of the first comprehensive works on the Ovamboland region. It was during this expedition that he made the acquaintance of the Finnish missionary Martti Rautanen (1845-1926) at Olukonda, and named the tree Ricinodendron rautanenii after him.
In 1889 he received his habilitation at Zürich, where in 1895 he became a professor and director of the botanical gardens. With Robert Keller (1854-1939), he was the author of Flora der Schweiz, a work on Swiss flora that published over several editions from 1900 to 1923.
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