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Obituaries

  • Prof. Ben Zeelie

                                                          

Prof Ben Zeelie dedicated his life to developing his team of staff and students. Encouraging them to take responsibility for each other. He believed in making Science practical and relevant to the public.
On a more formal note, he obtained his PhD in Chemistry at the University of Port Elizabeth and paid it forward by acting as promoter/co-promoter for 63 masters and doctorate students, this excludes those he examined and consulted for. Refereed Publications he wrote totalled 27 that we know of and 19 Patents excluding those on Coal fine Purification, Microalgae Cultivation, Process equipment and Coalgae which were either granted, filed or registered between 2010 and 2015. He contributed to over 50 conference proceedings during his career.
Some of the coursed he developed included:

  • Research Methodology for Chemists” - for B Tech/Honours and new master’s degree students.
  • “Laboratory Process Development” – course for Master’s degree students.
  • “Good Research Practice” – an informal course for Master’s and Doctoral students in good research practices.
  • “M Tech: Chemistry (Product and Process Development) - a structured Master’s degree as a “Technical” alternative to the traditional MBA.
  • “BSc Honours in formulation Science” – a multi-disciplinary program aimed at new product development.
  • “Diploma in Chemical Process Technology” – a program for the training of process technicians and process operators.

Government services played a pivotal role in his career, he was a leader in establishing new initiatives in South Africa, a:

  • Member of task team for the preparation of the proposal for the establishment of the Automotive Components Technology Station (Tshumisano Technology Stations Programme).
  • Member of the NACI Task Team – Chemical Industry.
  • Leader of the task team for the proposal to establish the South African Chemical Technology Incubator in Port Elizabeth (Former GODISA Incubator Programmes).
  • Chairperson of the Board of Directors – South Africa Chemical Technology Incubator.
  • Author of the proposal to establish the Downstream Chemicals Technology Station (Tshumisano Technology Stations Programme).
  • Member of the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap Team (2013).

Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurial contributions Prof Zeelie was instrumental in or a founder of, can be listed as follows:

  • Established “ChemQuest”, the commercial analytical service arm of the department of chemistry, 1992. (EX-PET Unit – Now operating as InnoVenton Analytical).
  • “EnviroQuest”, Spin-off company formed from ChemQuest activities, 1998 (CC).
  • “Techno-Lab Services”, Spin-off company formed from ChemQuest activities, 2001. (CC).
  • Project leader for the establishment of “CHEMIN”, The South African Chemical Technology Incubator, 2002. (S21 Company).
  • Established the Chemical Technology Centre (CTC) at PET for the scale-up and commercialisation of chemical production processes, 2004 (now incorporated into the Institute of Chemical Technology).
  • Team member in the establishment of “PET Innovations”, the commercial arm for the exploitation of PE Technikon held IP, 2003. (Pty Company).
  • Led task team for the establishment of the “Office of Innovation Support and Technology Transfer” at the NMMU (2006)
  • Insect repellent formulation: Product development, manufacturing and commercialisation.
  • Rose preservation process, AfricaEverose, now Floralush Pty LTD (2007)
  • Established InnoVenton: NMMU Institute for Chemical Technology (2005)

University Services:

  • Member of the NMMU Central Research Committee.
  • Member of the Faculty of Science Research Committee.
  • Member of the NMMU Intellectual Property Committee.
  • Leader of Task Team to Develop Innovation Support and Technology Transfer Structures for the NMMU.
  • Member of Senate.
  • Member of the NMMU Innovations Committee.
  • Member of the NMMU Engagement Committee.
  • Member of the NMMU Task Team to revise the NMMU’s Performance Management System.
  • Proposer for the establishment of a SARChI Chair in Microfluidic Bio/Chemical Processing (2012).
  • Examiner/moderator for other higher education institutions:
    • University of the Free State (MSc).
    • University of Potchefstroom (MSc).
    • University of Port Elizabeth (BSc Hons (Statistics)).
    • Rhodes University (Reviewer for industrial chemistry projects).
    • University of Pretoria (MSc).
    • University of Cape Town (M Eng).
    • Rand Afrikaans University (MSc).
      • Member of task team for the establishment of the Centre of Excellence in Catalysis at UCT.
      • External reviewer for UCT – Entities Program.
      • External Advisor for the Merger of Chemistry Departments – Walter Sisulu University.

His services to the South African Chemical and Allied industries are too numerous to mention, and range from proposals, technical solutions for problems, characterizations, various specialist studies to tailor made courses for particular applications and skills development.
Also this quote from Nelson Mandela is very apt in respect of Ben:
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” Ben certainly made a big difference to a number of lives.
Dr Melissa Gouws
Technology Station Manager
InnoVenton

  • Mr. Gerhard von Gruenewaldt

                                                              

The National Research Foundation regrets to announce the passing of Gerhard von Gruenewaldt, a former vice-president of the organisation and one of its driving forces in its progress since its establishment.

He joined the NRF’s forerunner, the Foundation for Research Development (FRD) in 1992 as vice-president for programmes and planning where he was instrumental in realigning research support for higher education with the changing realities and needs of the new South Africa. On the establishment of the NRF, he was appointed its vice-president and managing director for its Research Support Division where he helped integrate the activities of the former FRD and the Centre for Science Development (CSD) and the establishment of the new research support framework for the natural sciences, engineering, social sciences and humanities. He also oversaw the Technology and Human Resource for Industry Programme (THRIP) on behalf of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Innovation Fund on behalf of the Department of Science and Technology.

Gerhard also worked as a consultant and part time research advisor to the University of the Witwatersrand. In recent years he was involved extensively with various projects relating to the evaluation of research programmes and research infrastructure. Apart from his involvement with TechnoScene in the study of “The Required Physical Infrastructure to Attain the Vision of the National System of Innovation”; an “Interim Review of the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI)”; and a review of the National Equipment and the National Nanotechnology Equipment programmes, he conducted investigations entitled “A Proposed Recapitalisation Strategy of the National Research Facilities” and “An Optimal Model for the Establishment of a South African Polar Research Entity”, both for the NRF. He served as chairperson of the five yearly review of the Council for Geoscience in 2009 and, since retiring from the NRF, remained involved with the evaluation and rating of South African scientists.

Gerhard also worked as a consultant and part time research advisor to the University of the Witwatersrand. In recent years he was involved extensively with various projects relating to the evaluation of research programmes and research infrastructure. Apart from his involvement with TechnoScene in the study of “The Required Physical Infrastructure to Attain the Vision of the National System of Innovation”; an “Interim Review of the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI)”; and a review of the National Equipment and the National Nanotechnology Equipment programmes, he conducted investigations entitled “A Proposed Recapitalisation Strategy of the National Research Facilities” and “An Optimal Model for the Establishment of a South African Polar Research Entity”, both for the NRF. He served as chairperson of the five yearly review of the Council for Geoscience in 2009 and, since retiring from the NRF, remained involved with the evaluation and rating of South African scientists.

Gerhard was born in Germany in 1942 and studied Geology at the University of Pretoria where he obtained his BSc, Honours, Master’s and Doctorate and where he worked as Lecturer and Head of the university’s Geology Department for 13 years. He was awarded a Research Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation at the University of Munich in 1974. He was appointed an Honorary Professorship in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Pretoria in 2002.

As a scientist, Gerhard made significant contributions to research on the genesis of rocks in the unique Bushveld Complex and associated ore deposits. His work, particularly in the field of platinum mineralisation, led to valuable new insights regarding the nature of occurrence and genesis of these important ores which, besides earning him international recognition as a scientist, including an A-rating from the FRD in 1989, have had considerable importance for the South African mining industry.

Among his many achievements, Gerhard was awarded the Corstorphine Medal and student’s prize from the Geological Society of South Africa in 1966 and its Draper Memorial Medal in 1990 as well as the Award for Excellent Achievements from the University of Pretoria. He authored and co-authored more than 60 research papers and supervised 23 masters and seven doctoral students.

The NRF gratefully acknowledges Gerhard’s contribution to the advancement of science in South Africa.

He leaves behind a wife and two children.