ASSAf News

After the overwhelming success of Legends of South African Science, published in 2017 as part of the 20 year celebrations of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), this edition of Legends of South African Science II continues with profiling Members who were elected between 1993 – 2000.

This edition continues with profiling Members who were elected between 1993 – 2000. The Members profiled in this edition represent some of the longest standing ASSAf Members.

One of the strengths of a national Academy is the disciplinary diversity of its Membership. Collectively, the narratives of the Members profiled in this edition represent the apex of academic excellence and scholarship. All these Members have used their formal academic training in their specific fields and demonstrated how, through engagement with scholars in other fields, both locally and internationally, contributed to them becoming champions and leaders in advancing knowledge.

As Calie Pistorius reminds us, “Universities play an important role in society – in advancing knowledge, but particularly in inspiring and equipping their students to contribute proactively towards creating a better future, rather than merely participating as spectators in a world given to them by others.”

In citing Plato, “Knowledge is justified true opinion”, Johann Mouton shares with us that his academic journey has been shaped by the “principles of reasoning and the methodologies we use,” and that “scientific endeavour is all about the search for truth, even if we don’t reach it.”

Every narrative in this edition provides a unique perspective on contributions by accomplished South African scientists and scholars who, using an evidence-based approach have contributed significantly in growing the global knowledge production in their respective fields. Many of these scholars have held senior positions at academic institutions, been part of national and international committees, served at Governmental positions, and worked unstintingly in shaping the agendas of the postapartheid South Africa.

Their stories are fascinating, their contributions to science invaluable, and their service to society diverse and inspiring. It is also touching and inspiring to see how many scientists during this era were supported, inspired and uplifted by the late President Nelson Mandela. They were all committed to building a democratic South Africa, even in the face of many adversities.

Mamphele Ramphele acknowledges that while “ASSAf has gone a long way towards closing the gap between science, society and government, she stresses “that social and other scientists have to build more effective connections between their work and society.”

ASSAf strives in upholding its mandate of using evidence-based science in the service of society. We are grateful to all the Members profiled in this edition who agreed to share their journeys with us. Sadly, three Members featured in this edition have passed away since starting this publication. They are Professor Anthony (Dave) Walker (2018), Professor Michael Feast (2019), and Dr Neville Comins (2020). ASSAf extends condolences to the families and friends of these Members.

It is hoped that the legacy of these inspirational champions featured in Legends of South African Science II will continue to inspire us all, and to grow the next generation of leaders in making science relevant to society.

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