Top honours for immunologist

This year’s prestigious Phillip Tobias Lecture Award has gone to one of SA’s top molecular immunologists, Professor Malegapuru William Makgoba.

Makgoba, vice-chancellor and principal of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), was nominated by Minister of Science and Technology Mosibudi Mangena and will deliver his lecture at Insite 2008.

The award is one of a number of honours, distinctions and accolades given to Makgoba. In October 2007 he was awarded the fellowship of the Imperial College faculty of medicine in the United Kingdom, in recognition of outstanding contributions to medical research, international public health and university administration. He was also invited to present one of the plenary talks at the annual conference of the British Society for Immunology in Glasgow.

“We have nominated Professor Makgoba in acknowledgement of the contribution he has made as an intellectual and scientist.
His ongoing contributions to the country’s science systems are truly valued,” said Mangena.

The Phillip Tobias Lecture Award was developed from the establishment of the Phillip Tobias Lecture, which honours Tobias’s contribution to the sciences of palaeoanthropology and genetics through anatomical studies, and is presented biannually by the department of science and technology. Tobias is Professor Emeritus of anatomy and human biology at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Tobias is acknowledged worldwide as an expert in various fields: anatomy, human biology and palaeo­anthropology, three professorships he held simultaneously at Wits. He has received 16 honorary degrees and countless awards and medals. He has worked at the Sterkfontein Caves, Gauteng’s World Heritage Site, since 1945, where he has recovered 600 hominid fossils.

He is a world authority on human evolution and the analysis of human fossils, and he has written numerous papers and books on the evolution of the human brain and speech.

Makgoba said he felt “inspired and humbled” by the award, particularly because it was Tobias who was a great inspiration and unifier for science and society in South Africa for many years. “To be asked to give a lecture named after him is special to me.”

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