Prof Gita Ramjee, internationally known HIV scientist, passed away on 31 March 2020. She was the Chief Scientific Officer at the Aurum Institute and prior to that, Chief Specialist Scientist and Director of the South African Medical Research Council’s (SAMRC) HIV Prevention Research Unit. In recognition of her ground-breaking research in HIV, Professor Ramjee was the recipient of many national and international awards for her research including the “Outstanding Female Scientist” Award by the European Development Clinical Trials Partnerships (Portugal), the Lifetime Achievement Award at the International Microbicide Conference in Sydney, Australia in 2012 and the SAMRC Scientific Merit Award 2017 Gold Medal. Described as “a bold & compassionate leader in the response to HIV” (Gavin Churchyard, Aurum Group CEO), Professor Ramjee has been quoted as saying:“The HIV epidemic has disproportionately affected women. I strongly believe that my calling in life is to find methods that empower women to take control of their HIV prevention and reproductive health rights through informed choices.”
Dr Neville Comins, a true champion of the Academy, passed away on 3 April 2020. Dr Comins consulted in the fields of Innovation, National Systems of Innovation, and Science Park Development. Previously he held positions as Interim Technical Advisor for the Finnish Southern African Innovation Support (SAIS) Programme, National Innovation Advisor for COFISA (Cooperation Framework on Systems of Innovation, founding CEO of The Innovation Hub Management Company (Pty) Ltd, Director for Integrated Projects (CSIR), and Director of the Division of Materials Science and Technology (CSIR). He twice received the CSIR Merit Award and the Arthur Child Award for Innovation. He was a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and an Honorary Professor of the University of the Witwatersrand. Dr Comins will be remembered for his active support of ASSAf and its activities.
Prof Maarten de Wit, one of Africa’s most distinguished earth scientists, passed away on 14 April 2020. He was the Chair of Earth Stewardship Science at Nelson Mandela University (NMU) and Science Director of AEON (Africa Earth Observatory Network) and NMU’s transdisciplinary ESSRI (Earth Stewardship Science Research Institute). He helped to define the new trans-disciplinary field of research termed ‘Earth Stewardship Science’ or ‘Iphakade’ ─ ‘observe the present and consider the past to ponder the future’ – to holistically tackle problems affecting the planet, its commons (shared resources) and people. He was an honorary fellow of the Geological Societies of London, UK, and of the USA, and a founder member of the ASSAf. Prof De Wit was a key player on the panel which undertook ASSAf’s consensus report titled ‘South Africa’s Technical Readiness to Support the Shale Gas Industry’ under the chairmanship of Prof Cyril O’Connor.
Prof Doug Rawlings, one of South Africa’s foremost microbiologists, passed away on 2 May 2020. Prof Rawlings was one of the Founder Members who were elected to the Academy in 1996 and has just recently been featured in ASSAf’s Legends of South African Science II publication that profiles our 62 longest standing Members. When asked to elaborate on a defining moment in his life, Prof Rawlings said “his decision to pursue microbiology at postgraduate level instead of chemistry. At the time he did not realise that the field of recombinant DNA technology would break initially in the field of microbiology within the next few years and produce so many exciting techniques and rapid advances in fundamental biology”. And, what people might not know about him is that he was so inspired by the community spirit and support during his first, very casual Argus Cycle tour (on his son’s school bike!) that he has since completed another 21! He served as a Professor and Chair of Microbiology at the University of Stellenbosch (1998-2020) and most recently he also served as the Deputy and Acting Dean in the Faculty of Science at the same institution.
Prof Esté Vorster passed away on 23 June 2020 She was a past General Secretary of ASSAf and a Director of the Centre of Excellence for Nutrition in the Faculty of Health Sciences of the North-West University (NWU), Potchefstroom, South Africa. She obtained a DSc. in Physiology from NWU (previously Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education) in 1989. She received many awards recognising her value-driven contribution as a thought leader and transdisciplinary thinker. These included a B1-rating from the National Research Foundation, the Nutrition Society of South Africa’s (NSSA) award for ‘Outstanding Contributions to Nutrition Research’, the prestigious Havenga Medalje vir Geneeskunde for scientific outputs in Medical Sciences, and the African Nutrition Society Nevin Scrimshaw award for ‘Vision and leadership in nutrition training and service to international nutrition’. She was a Fellow of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences (IUNS), elected for rendering outstanding service to the cause of nutrition.