Reminiscences from SACI members with 40 plus years membership
To add to the history of SACI it was decided to get some of the older SACI members to relate about their experience of SACI in years gone by me. To do this a letter was sent out to the SACI membership form the then President, Prof Vincent Nyamori, in late 2017. The letter requested that those members with 40 + years of SACI membership write a few paragraphs on their remembrance of SACI in times past.
For a variety of reasons, these anecdotal comments are only now being collated in mid-2020. These remembrances of times past provides a small window on the times that the members recollect. Below are listed (virtually unedited) the comments from these members.
If there are any others who would still like to add to this article – please do so. Send your information to me.
Prof Neil Coville
July 1 2020
The letter of invite
Dear SACI Member
You have been a SACI member for over 40 years. We are trying to record some early history of SACI. Could you write a paragraph for us (10 lines; or longer) on (i) an early memory relating to SACI and (ii) what you doing now.
Prof Vincent Nyamori
Replies were received from the following:
Prof John Bradley
Dr Ken Buchanan
Prof Mike Brown
Mr George Carr
Prof Siegfried Drewes
Prof Bob Hasty
Prof Anton Heyns
Mr John Hofmeyr
Mr Edwin Kable
Dr Phillip Lloyd
Dr John Morris
Dr Peter Scott
Mr Vic Soffiantini
Mr P Hassiotis
Prof John Bradley
THE SACI 1980-90
I was Chairman of the S Transvaal section 1981-3 and SACI President 1988-1990.
The SACI used to belong to the Associated Scientific and Technical Societies and our secretary (Ms Efty Tsimas, not Laila!) had her office on their premises in the centre of Johannesburg. Meetings of the Council and of the committee of the then Southern Transvaal section were also held there. During the period 1980-1990, Sections were solely based upon provinces and there were no subject-specialized sections. In accordance with this, section meetings would bring together chemists of widely differing backgrounds – from academia, industry, allied commercial entities, and parastatals. I got to meet and to learn from chemists I would never otherwise have done and it was mind-broadening. The shared enthusiasm for chemistry across this spectrum of individuals enriched my own knowledge of the field and informed my academic teaching.
During this period there were proposals for specialized sections and gradually these were approved by the Council. It was quite a contentious issue at the time. One of the prompts leading to its adoption was the approaches made by smaller, independent societies to join with the SACI and thereby benefit both entities and their membership.
In parallel with this was a slow but steady growth of the membership of the SACI and its financial strength. The Southern Transvaal section was an important locale for generating greater financial resources through a lively programme of revenue-generating, professional events. The door was opened also to Company and Patron membership as a logical part of this development.
Dr Ken Buchanan
I’m embarrassed to say that, despite my best efforts to organize and preserve my academic, industry and SACI paper documents, many of those items for the period 1973 to 1997 have been lost in about 15 house moves during my working career and 3 moves post retirement! In fact, I’m still unpacking again after we moved back into our current home after moving out for 3 months’ renovations.
Thus, I’ve lost key paperwork from 1977 to 1997 (40 to 20 years ago) that would trigger the memories to answer your question (i). I say key, because all of this happened BC (before computers and mass data storage was available to individuals) and the wide-spread distribution of information across the internet from about 1997. If organizations or individuals like me have thrown out or lost their paper archives without scanning / digitizing the documents, much history is irretrievable.
Thus, I’m doubly embarrassed to say that, while I was the Secretary / Treasurer for the 26th SACI National Convention in 1979 in Port Elizabeth, I have no paperwork to prove this or to trigger memories of who the plenary speakers were or even what social outings we organized!
Also lost are my copies of the minutes and activities of the Eastern Province Section of which I was a Committee Member from 1976 to 1984, and Chairman from 1983 to 1984!
Even worse, given man’s pre-occupation with material things, I don’t think I’ll easily find the publications (was it “ChemSA”?) with my “Annual SACI Salary Survey” which I edited (i.e. did everything from data processing to writing up the publications) for the years 1983 to 1988. The results probably contributed to my move in mid-1984 to industry from academia!
I am currently also unpacking my boxes to find archival information to assist Cedric McCleland to complete his history of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Port Elizabeth / Nelson Mandela University, my alma mater and first employer. Thus, I may send you bites of history in a forthcoming email.
More to the point, to answer your questions with what I have readily available at home:
An early memory relating to the SACI:
About 40 years ago in the SACI Eastern Province (EP) Section, we strove (a) to get chemists together from all over the EP and the Border region, (b) to involve chemists from industry in our activities, and (c) to involve students. As academics, I think we were the first, or one of the first Sections, to coerce two selected Honours students from each university to present their Honours degree research topics at a combined “Annual Honours Meeting” of the Universities of Port Elizabeth, Transkei, Fort Hare and Rhodes University, the latter in Grahamstown being the most “central” venue in the Section. The students presented lectures during the afternoon session, which was followed by a supper, and the day rounded off in the evening by an invited speaker. You may wonder why I’ve highlighted such an apparently mundane event, but you must remember that the EP universities were / are very small and far from the large academic zones of Johannesburg-Pretoria, Durban-Pietermaritzburg and Cape-Town-Stellenbosch (generally, only two academic staff for each of the three major chemistry sub-disciplines, and one for Analytical Chemistry) and we really appreciated the opportunity to hold face-to-face meetings with other academics. For those academics at U of Fort Hare and U of Transkei, this feeling was particularly acute). One may debate whether these meetings were actually university-arranged or SACI functions. In those days our extra-mural lecture and mini-course programs were really a merger of our life’s work – chemistry (or was it academic freedom?)! Prof Trevor M Letcher, head of Chemistry Department at Rhodes University (RU) (where I’d moved in 1980 from UPE), placed great emphasis on publicity of departmental activities in proper A5-size brochures. Fortunately, the 1981 and 1982 copies of the RU Chemistry Department Newsletter are crammed in amongst my treasured chemistry text book collection dating back over 50 years! I have attached 2 pages, page two of which details the 1982 “Annual Honours Meeting” and the “SACI Affairs”.
What are you doing now?
Late in 2014 I retired from Sasol Polymers after over 30 years in industry (1984-1993 AECI Ltd. R&D and Technical Dept., and AECI Chlor-Alkali & Plastics Ltd., 1994-1999 Polifin (Sasol-AECI joint-venture), and 2000-2014 Sasol Polymers). Adding my decade in academia (1974-1980 UPE, 1980-1984 Rhodes University), I was fortunate to have a career in chemistry and related spheres spanning just over 40 years.
The scientific organizing side of me finds expression these days in that I’m the meeting organizer for the Natural Science Section of the Cape Town Branch of the University of the Third Age (U3A). Coincidently, on the day you sent this email, our invited speaker was Emeritus Prof. James R Bull, formerly Mally Professor of Organic Chemistry at UCT, and former President of the SACI (1986-1988). He gave a splendid talk on “Poisons and Potions”, combining chemistry, history, literature and human intrigue. He has a great presentation manner and a great ability to recall / retell anecdotes. On Saturdays, James and I often meet at the Rondebosch Common in Cape Town, where we’ve both completed well over a hundred Parkruns.
The history of chemistry is one of my favourite interests and reading / research topics. For about 3 years I’ve been writing a history of Sasol Polymers, and its predecessor and related chemical companies, dating back nearly a hundred years in South Africa. However, this task always seems to suffer (as other writers know) when it comes to setting priorities when faced with the load of activities pensioners labour under (i.e. walking the dog in Newlands Forest, entertaining the grandchildren, tidying the garden and pool, going to SACI/RSC or U3A or Botanical Society Kirstenbosch lectures, coffee with friends, shopping with one’s spouse, getting back to marathon-distance road-running, drinks at the running club, watching too much television, etc.)! No wonder I’ll have to let you know if / when I get this book published.
Prof Mike Brown
When I was doing Chemistry II at Wits in 1957 we were lectured to by Prof Sam Israelstam who was very involved in SACI. He ensured that all the second-years became Student Members of SACI and so this year marks my 60 years of unbroken membership.
I lived in Sydenham, which was about 10 km by bus and 1 km walk from Wits, so returning to the campus in the evenings for SACI functions took quite an effort. The main recollection of these meetings is of audiences waiting patiently for the Committee and Speaker to arrive from their pre-meeting dinner. Arrival was usually late and the procession of elderly (to me) men was accompanied by a strong smell of port and cigar smoke, to the envy of the student members!
After graduating and moving to Rhodes University in 1962, I attended the fairly regular meetings of the EP Local Section, either in Grahamstown or Port Elizabeth. Prominent members at that time included the Schauder brothers, who were very active.
When I was in the final stages of my PhD I was invited to give my first public lecture to the Section. I was a bit disconcerted when during my talk I noticed that a senior member was fast asleep in the front row! He apologised afterwards and said that his flu medication was responsible, not me!
In 1963 I attended my first SACI Convention, the Diamond Jubilee Convention, held in the new Raikes Building at Wits. One of the invited guests was Prof F.C. Tompkins, FRS, from Imperial College, London. He had quite a reputation as a difficult and very influential person. He was given a very flattering introduction by the chairman of the first plenary session, to which he replied sarcastically that it was a pity that that they had left out his taste in silk pyjamas. He then continued by saying that now that we had got to the most important part of the Convention, he would deliver his lecture.
I don’t know the details of the feud that had apparently raged for years between Prof Tompkins and his one-time employer, the University of Natal, but the Convention gave him an opportunity to get some revenge. During one of the ordinary sessions, Prof D. Schreiner from the University of Natal presented a paper on some aspect of catalysis, which was Tompkins’s special field. At the end of the lecture there was the usual polite applause and the shuffling of papers as members of the audience looked up what was next on the programme. The session chairman took a first question from the audience, which Prof Schreiner answered without difficulty. Prof Tompkins then got the chairman’s attention and said that he had a few comments to make on the paper. The comments were along the lines “You have not done ……….. which you should have done” and “You have done ….. which you should not have done.” This included not referring to work by Tompkins that disagreed with Schreiner’s work. The list went on and on and Prof Schreiner, a large man, seemed to be shrivelling up on the stage. He seemed to recover slightly as Tompkins started a comment with “Finally ….. “ but, cruelly, this was only one of a further set of critical comments, each starting with “Finally …”. There was no hope of anyone being able to recover from such an onslaught and the chairman wisely suggested that discussion was best done amongst those interested during the tea break. The incident has become one of the “legends” of the Faraday Division of the RSC. As a lowly Junior Lecturer, it was an eye-opener to me to see the “big guns” in fierce action!
Another, less-controversial, Convention guest was Dame Kathleen Lonsdale. Her lecture would have been superb if someone had checked the focal length of the projector lens in use in the brand new lecture theatre. Her crystallographic slides were overflowed the screen onto the ceiling and side walls. With very restrained sarcasm, she tried to refer the audience to the part of the structure “shown on the left-hand part of the ceiling.”
Many years, and many conventions later, I was in charge of the lecture programme for the SACI Convention held at Rhodes in 1991. One of the Plenary Speakers in a session chaired by Jimmy Bull, totally refused to end his lecture, after overrunning his time by more than 30 minutes and in spite of a crowd gathering impatiently in the foyer for the next session. I came very close to switching off the building’s main power switch!
The activities of the EP Section really brought together chemists from Rhodes, UPE and, later, Fort Hare. Many friendships were made and collaborations started. The joint students’ symposium that we started has been duplicated in many other Sections.
I retired in 2003 and was awarded a DSc by Rhodes University in 2006 for my published work. Since then I have enjoyed a change of occupation – doing woodwork and catching up with all the books that keeping up with the chemical literature had deprived me of!.
Mr George Carr
Having taken a Masters Degree with Mike Laing, Mary Laing as Tutor in 1970, I returned from UK a few years later and stayed a couple of weeks with the Laings. I was inveigled into joining SACI and was volunteered as Secretary, Treasurer , Vice President. Prof Bayles had decided SACI was a good thing. Carl Pegel and Mike Laing were to get the fairly moribund Natal Section going.
I had been an active part of the RIC Polymer Group in UK, a members-based initiative which cut across the classical boundaries. We decided to try the same techniques here. Informal lectures, no entry requirements, no recovery of expenses, drinks/snacks scrounged from Commerce sales budgets. The segregation laws proved a bit toothless. No rules existed on commercial pubs other than that toilets had to be segregated unless released by management. This was to allow for international trade.
We started off with NCP, Lever Bros, Plascon and Dulux staff in the President at Jacobs on the topic of analysis techniques and a series of evening lectures at Howard College. Key to the operation was the co-operation of the Chemical Engineers, Oil and Colour Chemists, Plastics Institute, Clean Air, Sugar Milling, Paint Research and Wildlife Society. All sent out invitations, helped with venues and lecturers. The Instrument Companies were not asked for exhibition fees but were expected to allow instrument use, sponsor booze and provide lecturers.
Net effect was the last major event we ran attracted 300 plus delegates from around the country for a week- long event. We were fortunate enough to get 50-100 attendees for open evening sessions.
All in all I ran evening lectures for 12 years, was Natal President twice, treasurer twice. We built up section funds so we could run lectures without sponsorship and built up the contacts that became the Chromatography Section.
I am still running our independent Gas Chromatography Laboratory.
Herewith my thoughts on the topic of 40 years with SACI.
I completed my MSc degree in 1959 at NU in Pietermaritzburg. By this time I was very aware what SACI did and what they stood for. It was fairly logical that one would join the organisation and take part in the chemical activities which it offered. I am not sure what the general attitude of postgraduates of today is. Certainly, we were well-informed and if events of chemical interest were to take place in Durban we would often travel there.
Some time after getting my higher degree I was offered a post in Grahamstown at the Leather Research Institute, which was closely affiliated to Rhodes University. I completed a Ph.D degree in 1963 and by this time was well aware how important it was to attend SACI lectures held at Rhodes Chemistry Department. In fact I was a regular participant at the short courses which were held towards September at frequent intervals. These courses had the full support of SACI and they probably partially supported the costs of bringing out top chemists.
The courses were always held in interesting venues and this was also an opportunity to make new friends with fellow chemists and to get to know the world experts in their field. As an example of venues I can still remember Sabie River Bungalows, Gordons Bay, Golden Gate, Hluhluwe, and other places in the Kruger park. Later on these get-togethers became more formalised and are now known as " the Frank Warren National Organic Chemistry Conferences". The first of these was held at UKZN in Pietermaritzburg in July 1983 and our overseas guest was the renowned organic chemist Barry Trost from the University of Wisconsin.
SACI was always part and parcel of my academic life and that is why I "stuck" with them !
I formally retired in 1995 as HOD of Chemistry (UKZN PMB), but stayed on in the Department as Hon. Research Fellow, giving some lectures at Honours level but mostly doing research on the chemistry of "muthi" plants. . This continued until Jan. 2014 when I finally "came home".
Prof R. A. (Bob) Hasty
The 23rd S.A.C.I. Convention at UCT in Cape Town in January 1974 stands out for many reasons. The official excursion to Stellenbosch was exceptional. I still remember sitting under a tree with a group of chemists at Simonsig listening to Frans Malan introducing the merits of his wines. The formalized tasting facilities and restaurant that exist today are outstanding but did not exist then. An unofficial excursion with John Pratt later in the week from the residences at UCT, past Rhodes Memorial, up to and along Tafelberg Road, up Platteklip Gorge to the top of Table Mountain was most satisfying as an personal accomplishment. Encountering fellow chemists from the Convention, Jack Lacy and Mike Booth, was rewarding in the development of long time personal contacts.
Another encounter, a year or two later, illustrating the hospitality and informality of the times arose at a tasting and discussion of the merits of Pinotage and its origins. My interest in Pinotage's origins comes from the fact that Guido Perold's (a colleague at Wits) father was responsible for the hybridization of Hermitage amd Pinot Noir. It was a varietal with which I was unfamilar before coming to South Africa. I mentioned that I had never seen or noticed the flower of a grape vine. Our host, Sydney Back, immediately took me into the vineyard and showed me the clusters of extremely small flowers.
In the early 1980s, activities and hearty discussions outside the official meeting are also remembered that had a great effect on or within S.A.C.I. One such gathering which stands out in my memory (but details of the official event elude me) involved Andrew Spark, George Carr, Jo Day-Lewis, Iain Moodie, John Swinley, to name but a few. Chromatographers wanted a formally recognized body within S.A.C.I. which would better cater for their needs. Driven by the enthusiasm of Andrew Spark, George Carr and Jo Day-Lewis, local organizations were developed in the Cape (Andrew Spark, Iain Moodie, Derek McAuley), Natal (George Carr, Jo Day-Lewis, C. Cooper) and Transvaal (Vic Pretorius, Egmont Rohwer, John Swinley). These efforts culminated in the formation and petitioning for recognition of the Chromatography Subject Section of S.A.C.I. In August 1983, the 'Inaugural' Meeting of the Chromatography Sub-Section (subsequently corrected to Subject Section') was convened in Durban by George Carr.
It is probably hard to imagine today with the internet that, there was an appreciable delay in obtaining journals in 1984. A conversation on this topic with George Morrison, the Editor of Analytical Chemistry , will long be remembered. In fact, his editorial published later in the year makes it impossible to forget.
Fast forward several years and subsequent to retirement from UNISA in 1996, I dabbled in a number of activities including patchwork and tailoring tools. Moving to Kimberley in the Northern Cape in 2002, I became more involved with environmental concerns w.r.t. water-related and energy-related projects in the province. From 2006 through 2010, I took on the task of editing analytical related articles for the South African Journal of Chemistry. Hobbies and other activities include Scottish country dancing, chess, vegetable and herb garden and walking/hiking.
A walk from Paarl to the top of Bretagne Rock during an excursion to the Cape in February this year (2017) ends this description on the same subject as at the beginning, sampling the fruits of the vine and reaching the top of the mountain.
Prof Anton Heyns
(Prof Heyns was President of SACI form 1990-1992)
Since I have left Pretoria there had been so many changes that I hardly know anyone now. I am fully retired now, after retirement from Chemical Abstracts I was a visiting professor at The Ohio State University and spent a few wonderful years doing mostly research and then also teaching of evening classes. I write publications now at home, concentrating on work that fell through the cracks, but my abilities are declining rapidly, it takes me ages to finish a paper.
Memories are vague, but I seem to recall a close association between SACI and the AS&TS. I recently binned my green AS&TS membership card, dated 1969, I think. It was made of cardboard and laminated with thin fibres of coarse-weave fabric for durability and bore a (stamped) signature of the President. I seem to remember attending meetings (a) in the Johannesburg CBD, maybe on Hollard St, and (b) in a pale green and beige building on the south side of Jorissen St, I think, in Braamfontein. I don’t recall whether they were meetings of SACI or AS&TS.
Several years ago, SACI wrote to me with congratulations for qualifying for life membership because I had been a SACI member for more than “X” years. I forget the number; I think that I became a student member during my second year at Wits, 1969, aged nineteen.). Hot on the heels of that missive came a rescission with an apology; I was still way short of the other criterion – being over 70 years old!
The late Prof. Pierre Faure and I were both members of Parkview Golf Club. One of the club’s festivities was the “on-the-spot” draw for a small monetary prize for a lucky member who was present in the pub at the time. On one occasion I delayed my arrival for a SACI meeting in order to be present for the draw. Pierre (being far more disciplined than I) abandoned the club to avoid tardy arrival at SACI. Unluckily for him, his name came out of the hat in his absence. What cruel misfortune!
During my years working for Union Carbide in the 1970s and 1980s, I became interested in molecular sieve zeolites. Aspects of surface chemistry in porous materials gained a new lease on life when, about 15 years ago, I became interested in biomass-based charcoal when used as a soil amendment. In that application the material is called “biochar”. It has many edaphic attributes but three stand out:
moisture-retention (adsorption / desorption)
cycling of nutrients in plant-available form (also by adsorption / desorption)
provision of a protective habitat for microorganisms, especially mycorrhizae
Some of my quasi-academic thinking is published on the Researchgate website. To date my work is self-funded and currently stalled.
Mr E.J.D. Kable
My earliest recollection of SACI dates back to the late fifties at which time I was in high school. I had an uncle, R.A.Wood (Bob), a chemical engineer who was actively involved in the Southern Transvaal branch. At that time the chemical engineers did not have their own professional body. He and H.R. (Roy) Corbett, science teacher at KES, were largely instrumental in sparking my interest in chemistry. Following the death of my father I spent a lot of time with the Wood family. On the odd occasion I used to accompany him on his visits to clients and colleagues. On one particular occasion he had an appointment with Dr. Ken Mathieson, who was also involved in SACI, and at that time was attached to the Gold Fields laboratories in Booysens. Coincidently, I ended up at the same locality in the late eighties.
The branch was very active and held regular functions. Monthly dinners were par for the course. Bob always kept me abreast of the activities and I got to know the likes of Dr. Arnold Mendelowitz and Dr. Henry Stein of AECI, Prof. Issy Israelstam and Sam Goodman. I got to know Sam better in later years when we served on the same committee together with Dr. Mike Booth, Roy Corbett and Nigel Coney (chemical engineer).
In the early sixties my uncle served a term as chairman of the branch. It was customary for the occupant of the position to present a paper at the end his tenure. This was always a gala event. I assisted him in compiling information for his talk which centred on “The two cultures”, art and science, the two chief protagonists being C.P.Snow and F.A.Lindemann.
I recall short courses put on by SACI of which I attended some. These were generally held late afternoon/early evening with a break for a finger supper, usually a grand affair, and held over several days. One such school was devoted to sampling and several knowledgeable individuals contributed. I have a vivid picture of one such contributor from the Chamber of Mines Research Organization, viz. a portly gentleman by the name of Rabson, not Bill Rapson.
Unlike SACI’s current base in the department of Chemistry at Wits., all professional and technical societies had a common home, viz. Kelvin House and fell under the umbrella of Associated and Technical Socieites(AS&TS). It was conveniently situated close to the mining houses and the Chamber of Mines. Apart from providing secretarial services and a home for the different societies it also housed meeting rooms, lecture rooms, a restaurant and a bar. It was central to all activities. Sadly in the nineties with the dissipation of mining activities to other parts of Gauteng, Kelvin House lost its relevance.
On entering studies in chemistry at Wits. students were cajoled into joining SACI as student members by Prof. Issy Israelstam who was responsible for the organic chemistry course. He was most persistent. If my memory serves me correctly I joined the society in 1963.
I recall the names of some of my colleagues of 1965, they included Neil Coville, Arthur Garner, Dave Rosettenstein, Ray Bischoff, Ginger Reynders, Geoff Yeo, Rob McCrindle, Terry Murphy, Warwick Tarboton, Marie McEvilly, Lex van Vught, Brenda Jones, Ann Fulton.
The nineties saw the incorporation of the South African Institute of Assayers and Analysts into SACI. Pieter Marais and Rob McCrindle were involved with the negotiations with the assayers.
Dr Phillip Lloyd
One of my fondest memories is of an Annual Meeting at Stellenbosch in, I think, 1966. Somehow, Anton Rupert had been persuaded to be a sponsor, and had backed his support with many cases of his wine. Networking after hours became quite robust, so much so that the organisers had to ask Dr Rupert if he would kindly replenish the stocks (which he did.) But his generosity did not end there. He threw a wonderful dinner party on his farm outside Stellenbosch. We were bussed to the farm, and sat on long tables round a pool. Again, ethanol was high on the list of refreshments available. Half way through the meal, a near neighbour at my table felt he was being denied further supplies, so asked the red-coated waiter standing just behind him for a refill. The red-coated person was in fact Dr Rupert, resplendent in a blazer, and without blinking an eyelid, asked a real waiter to assist the now embarrassed guest.
I am now an Adjunct Prof at both Cape Peninsula University of Technology and Beijing Agricultural University. Much of my research has to do with the problem of how poor people cook. Millions still rely on biomass combustion, which almost invariably generates smoke, and there is increasing evidence that the resulting indoor air pollution has long-term effects on health. Through the understanding of the dynamics of combustion, we have had great success in developing a clean stove. In Ulaan Bator (Mongolia) we were able to show that the fumes going up the chimney were cleaner than the air from outside, and an extensive programme has cut their winter pollution by 60%. In China, a World Bank pilot in Hebei province involves 800 000 new stoves, and we are partly involved in determining the effects on air pollution downwind towards Beijing as the roll-out proceeds.
It is all a long way from my original chemical interests, which were largely solution chemistry, but what I have found in my career that the solid foundation of chemistry and physics which I received at University have stood me in good stead in addressing a very wide range of problems, from the production of essential oils to carbon capture and storage to processing Dead Sea water to - the list goes on!.
Dr John Morris
I joined the SAC I as a student member during the first year of my Masters at the University of Pretoria in 1953. When I graduated and started working at Iscor in 1955 I became a full member and was persuaded to become the secretary of the Pretoria (Northern Transvaal) Branch.
Members of the committee at that stage included Dr Guido (Gawie) Perold (Iscor Research Labs), C C (Clem) van der Merwe (SABS), and others whose names I cannot now recall although I can picture them. It was at this time that I got to know Jonah (Joe) Kitching who was the permanent secretary of the SACI at Kelvin House. We became close friends, a friendship that lasted until his death at the age of 92 in France.
In 1957 I went to the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, thanks to an Iscor bursary. On my return I once again became the Secretary for the Pretoria branch and it was at this stage that we had an application for membership from a black PhD and were told by a senior member of the SABS that if we accepted the application we would endanger our future careers since we were all (vaguely) employed by the State and our action would not be appreciated. Led by Guido Perold we ignored this warning (threat).
In 1964 the 18th Convention was held in Pretoria and I was the secretary ably assisted by Les Anderson. Our foreign guest was Carl Djerassi who had been instrumental in the development of the birth control Pill. At a public meeting he pointed out that “you South Africans have made the cardinal mistake of introducing death control before introducing birth control.” Another speaker at an open meeting was Anton Rupert.
After eleven years in the Iscor research labs as an emission and molecular spectroscopist I joined the National Building Research Institute (NBRI) where I became the head of the organic materials division for 10 years then went to London as the Counsellor for Science and Technology at the Embassy. In 1984 I returned to the NBRI as the chief director. In 1988 I moved to the University of the Witwatersrand as Professor of Building Science in the faculty of Architecture before retiring to Simon’s Town in 2000.
Dr Peter Scott
In 1974, shortly after I joined SACI as a newly minted PhD at NIM (now Mintek), I had a paper accepted for presentation at the SACI Conference at the new De Waal Hotel In Cape Town. My wife, Lyn and our first born, Catherine flew to CT to combine the conference with a holiday.
The first night of the conference was hosted by Dr Anton Rupert (MSc Chemistry) at Die Bergkelder; the second by Niels Joubert of Spier when he introduced the first Pinotage wine in RSA, unfortunately judged to taste like “muddy river water” by one of the conferences self appointed wine connoiseurs.
The conference marked the first announcement of Jan Boeyens’ (yes, he of the Gold Medal) new theory of chemical bonding. “Discussions" about his theory continued after Spier in the Pub of the De Waal ending in the early hours with Jan and a few other participants being evicted from the hotel by police. Apparently, the management felt that Jan’s illustration of his theory by dancing on the bar counter with a broomstick was “unscientific”.
After the conference, we went to visit old family friends in the desolate and windswept village of Fish Hoek, vowing never to return! Lyn and I now live in Fish Hoek overlooking False Bay and learning to do very little slowly. However, I still consult to the new owners of the Atoll group which I co-founded (and managed for the last 10 years of my working career) on behalf of Mintek with Basil Smidt, CEO of Titaco, a project engineering company. Ironically, Atoll employs physical separation and pyrometallurgical technology, both of which my boss at NIM, Mike Nicol, informed me no intelligent Chemist would ever be associated with for the following reasons:- “ Chemistry, said Mike, is about what can happen or thermodynamics and how fast or kinetics. Physical separation (then “ore dressing”) uses no chemistry. Pyrometallurgy uses so much heat that the thermodynamics work and the kinetics are fast. This is why we, the intelligentsia, in Mineral & Process Chemistry at NIM study hydrometallurgy and flotation/surface chemistry.”
I believe Mike’s “rules of chemistry” still apply although quantum phenomena were physicists fairy tales and tennis rackets were made of wood not “nano technology” in those days.
Mr Vic Soffiantini
A history book of SACI has already been written by, I think, Mike Booth (a SACI office bearer), some decade or two ago. When I was local Chairman & Secretary (in the 70's, & 80's), I did start a scrap book of photos and articles about SACI and some of its members and events. This was passed onto the next generation of office bearers. I think that SACI used to publish a newsletter or magazine called "The Industrial Chemist" in the 60's.
We also started various workshops (where suppliers' instruments were in working order and we did sample testing with lectures) in Durban in 1983 & 1988 under the excellent organisation of George Carr. These workshops in Natal (KZN) became very popular and well attended.
In Durban at the Blue Waters Hotel, myself and the late Prof Mike Laing, held several skills training sessions (using working lab apparatus & experiments) for the local chemical industry and students. This was about early turn of the century. I think it was in the late 90's that SACI took over the reins and membership of the South African Institute of Assayers & Analysts.
SACI used to hold a Qualifying Entrance Examination (said to be equivalent to a BSc degree) for full membership application of SACI (approx 1970). This was to allow non-university graduates to join the association. Mike Cox and myself, I believe were the last two successful candidates. About 2 years thereafter the examination was scrapped.
What I am doing now is being a semi-retired business owner and consultant of a chemical (Chem-Science Laboratories (PTY)Ltd and microbiological (Bio-Science Technologies (Pty) Ltd) contract testing laboratories in KZN.
Mr P Hassiotis
Regretfully, I am not aware of the early history of the SACI, as I spent a great deal of my career away from Johannesburg and S Africa. I am currently retired and enjoy long distance running, bridge and chess. Two days ago (2017), I ran the Athens marathon in 5h 24.