South African wins global science prize

2016-02-08 13:37 - Duncan Alfreds, Fin24
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The Salt in Sutherland. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)


Cape Town – A South African will join the likes of Sir David Attenborough in receiving the Edinburgh Medal to honour global scientists.

Kevin Govender is the first in the country to be awarded the Edinburgh Medal for 2016 for the establishment of the Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) in Cape Town.

The medal is jointly award to Govender and the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

“Well I'm still trying to get my head around it. It's obviously a huge and humbling honour for me personally but it also represents an important recognition for the many people around the world involved in this effort,” An excited Govender told Fin24.

Along with the president of the IAU, Silvia Torres Peimbert, Govender will be presented with the Edinburgh Medal at the Chambers of the City of Edinburgh Council on 30 March 2016.

International arena

“The difference that Kevin Govender and the IAU have made in developing countries is astronomical. Govender has been leading the Office of Astronomy for Development since 2011 and has overseen the expansions from its roots in Cape Town, South Africa to be extended to a further nine regional offices in Armenia, China, Colombia, Ethiopia, Jordan, Nigeria, Portugal, Thailand and Zambia,” said Lord Provost of City of Edinburgh Council, the Right Honourable Donald Wilson.

Govender said that astronomical developments like the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and the Southern African Large Telescope (Salt) has thrust local astronomers into the international arena.

“The SKA has changed the way the world looks at South African astronomy and African science in general. When the Southern African Large Telescope (Salt) was built, it made the international community take notice of SA and African astronomers, and the vision of the South African government.”

Govender joins previous recipients of the award including animal rights activist and scientist Professor Jane Goodall, naturalist Sir David Attenborough and astrophysicist Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell.

“Kevin Govender has been the driving force behind the spectacular success of the IAU Office of Astronomy for Development.  His passion and boundless energy for using astronomy to promote a better world for everyone inspire all who meet him,” said Professor Ted Williams, director of the South African Astronomical Observatory which hosts the OAD.

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