Dr Brian Stuckenberg (76) dies

2009-02-12 00:00

Dr Brian Stuckenberg (76), entomologist, museum director and one of the first people to exhibit historical artefacts from the apartheid era, died on Saturday.

Stuckenberg graduated from Rhodes University with a Masters degree with distinction in entomology and obtained his Doctorate in Dipterology (study of flies) from the University of Natal.

Through his research on flies, he travelled throughout the world and has a collection of African flies named after him in the Natal Museum. This collection is the largest in the world.

One of his discoveries was the fossil of a blood sucking fly (Palaeoarthroeles mesozoicus) dating back to over 175 million years ago. Before his find, fossils dating back 70 million years in the Cretaceous period were believed to have been the oldest.

Stuckenberg was awarded the title of honorary member of the International Congress of Dipterology, the first person in Africa and fourth in the world to receive this award.

In 1999, he was awarded the Premio Admiral Teixeira Award by the National Maritime Academy in Portugal for solving the mystery of a 1585 shipwreck in Santiago.

Stuckenberg started working at the Natal Museum in 1953 as a research officer and in 1975 was appointed the director.

He was particularly interested in generating awareness of museums as instruments of social change and national reconciliation.

After a trip to Germany in 1989, he was shocked to discover that there were no historical artefacts depicting Nazi Germany.

“Through museums you can discover your own history and culture. Sometimes people oppose their pasts when they are confronted with them. I suppose museums can make you angry or proud,” he told a Witness reporter in 1993 after the launch of ‘Amandhla’, the museum’s first apartheid exhibition.

Stuckenberg not only focused on educating people about their pasts, he also spent time in the U.S. in 1990 doing research on ways to make science fun for children and helping them adapt to a technological society, with the aim of fostering interest in a scientific career.

Dr Jason Londt, a colleague and friend of Stuckenberg, described him as being “very private, quiet and intellectual”. “He was an exceptional scientist in a league of his own. He was highly respected as a scientist and as a person and all his colleagues admired and liked him. He will be missed.”

Stuckenberg is survived by his wife Pam and three children.

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