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The University is mourning the loss of Professor Maarten de Wit, an A1-rated National Research Foundation (NRF) scientist and holder of the Chair of Earth Stewardship Science, who died yesterday.

Recognised nationally and internationally for his ground-breaking research projects, Prof de Wit impacted on hundreds of students from around the globe through his work. 

Prof de Wit joined the University in August 2011 from the University of Cape Town (UCT) and has since built a transdisciplinary research and postgraduate students programme through the African Earth Observation Network and the associated Earth Stewardship Science Research Institute (AEON-ESSRI) of which he was Founding Director.

He built a very strong earth observation network, which served as a driver of the Global Change Grand Challenge National Research Plan.

His exceptionally vast scientific interests encompassed how the Earth works - particularly in its youthful stage; in global tectonics; the evolution of Africa and Gondwana; the origin of continents, geo-eco-dynamics, life, and mineral resources; and in the economics of natural-resources, sharing of the global ‘commons’, and intergenerational equity. He was a keen field worker with extensive time spent throughout Africa, in North and South America, Europe, and Antarctica.

Known nationally and internationally for his many ground-breaking research projects, Prof de Wit focused on unravelling the deep structures of southern Africa and establishing a natural baseline of the Karoo; but more so for the NRF-Department of Science and Innovation (NRF-DSI) sponsored Inkaba-ye-Africa (now known as Iphakade) and Global Change programmes stretching over 15 years. These programmes funded the development of over 300 graduate and postgraduate students across many South African universities, of which he personally supervised over 75 thesis-based PhD and MSc students.

He published extensively and was a founding member of the South Africa Academy of Science, an Honorary Fellow of the Geological Society of America, and of the Geological Society of London; and served actively on the editorial boards of five international journals.

Watch the virtual commemoration service on our YouTube channel.

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777