For the past two years, our lives as we knew them have been significantly disrupted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Also the usual routines of the Royal Society of South Africa didn’t escape from this forced alteration. As we are slowly recovering from the pandemic, we want to complete some important unfinished business, namely the formal awarding of our annual awards. This will hopefully be done during regional in-person dinner events that will take place in the first half of 2022 and that will be announced shortly. On this page we want to highlight the 2020, 2021 and 2022 Awardees.

Prof Nigel Bennett

Prof Nigel Bennett won the 2022 John FW Herschel medal. Prof Bennett’s research has explored the ecology, physiology and behaviour of African mammals, focussing on the African mole-rats, and on Damaraland mole-rats in particular. He is a highly cited scientist and the implications of his research reach far beyond mole-rats, providing important insights into the physiology, evolution and ecology of other vertebrates.

Prof Nic Spaull

The 2022 Meiring Naudé medal was awarded to Prof Nic Spaull. Nic’s research is focussed on inequality in South African schooling with a special emphasis on the acquisition of foundational skills related to reading, writing and mathematics. He has set up large-scale Randomised Control Trials in the Eastern Cape (50 schools) and Limpopo (120 schools) evaluating the impacts of teacher-coaches, workbooks and teacher assistants.

Prof Quarraisha Abdool Karim

In 2021, we had the rare occasion of awarding two John FW Herschel medals. Prof Quarraisha Abdool Karim works on policy and programmatic contributions to understanding the evolving HIV epidemic in South Africa; unravelling factors influencing HIV acquisition in adolescent girls and young women; design and evaluation of interventions to prevent HIV infection and developing sustainable strategies to introduce ART in resource-constrained settings and implementation of new HIV prevention technologies.

Prof Leonard Barbour

In 2021, we had the rare occasion of awarding two John FW Herschel medals. Prof Len Barbour is one of the two recipients. Prof Barbour’s speciality is Structural Chemistry and Material Science. Hi lab is the best-equipped of its kind in South Africa and was expanded by building his own workshop in which he makes specialised equipment. This has allowed him to innovate on different aspects of the properties of materials which are highly porous and can be used as storage for gases.

Prof Mike Bruton

Mike Bruton is the 2021 winner of the Marloth medal. His career initally focused on ichthyology and aquatic ecology at Rhodes University and as Director of the South African Institute of Aquatic Biology. Subsequently his contributions focused on science and environmental education, the psychology of learning, the nature of creativity, structure and function of the brain, the history and the development of museums and science centres as well as technological innovation.

Prof Glenda Gray

Prof Glenda Gray is the 2020 recipient of the John FW Herschel medal. Professor Gray is a paediatrician and a medical scientist. She is widely recognised for her research on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, HIV vaccines and HIV prevention more broadly. Her research has also covered sexual and other risk factors in HIV acquisition, fertility and reproduction in women in the context of the HIV epidemic.

Dr Dyllon Randall

The 2020 winner of the Meiring Naudé medal is Dr Dyllon Randall.  Cape Town narrowly avoided “day zero”, the day their taps were predicted to run dry. As a result of this challenge, Dr Randall and his team developed the world’s first fertilizer-producing urinal that uses no water and does not need to be connected to a conventional sewage line. Dyllon discovered a process for the conversion of urine into bricks. In the picture, he shows an original edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species.

Prof Piet Steyn

Prof Piet Steyn is the winner of the Marloth medal in 2020. Prof Steyn dedicated a lifelong research career to the exploration of mycotoxins. After his retirement he kept on working relentlessly to mentor young scientists and offered his wealth of knowledge to the Research Office of Stellenbosch University.