Pandor: Tobias will be revered

2012-06-08 08:36

Johannesburg - Professor Phillip Tobias will be revered for his profound research in palaeo-anthropology, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor and Deputy Minister Derek Hanekom said on Thursday.

His contribution to research in the fields of genetics, from anatomical studies to palaeo-anthropology, was well known, they said.

"It is this contribution that led the [department of science and technology to] establishing an annual Professor Philip Tobias Lecture and Award in honour of his contribution."

Pandor and Hanekom conveyed their condolences to his family.

Tobias, who was born on October 14, 1925, died at the Wits University Donald Gordon Medical Centre on Thursday, said Gauteng Tourism Authority spokesperson Anthony Paton.

His death was the end of a distinguished era in the annals of South African scholarship, said the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD).

"Philip Tobias was truly a scholar and a gentleman, someone who was as loved for his kindness and humility as he was respected for his myriad academic achievements," said spokesperson Mary Kluk.

She described him as a courageous, deeply principled campaigner for human rights, particularly in the area of academic freedom.

Tobias was involved in the Jewish community throughout his life, and was chosen to receive the SAJBD's Human Rights Award in 2001.

Deep impact

The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) expressed its sadness at his death and paid him tribute as a "stalwart of the university and a world-renowned scientist".

Spokesperson Shirona Patel said he had received many awards and honours, including honorary degrees from the universities of Pennsylvania, Cambridge, California, Natal, Cape Town, South Africa, Durban-Westville, Western Ontario, Alta, Guelph, and the Witwatersrand.

"We extend our deepest sympathies to the friends and family of Prof Tobias, and those him knew him well," she said.

The deep impact he had on his colleagues and students, and the significant role he played in building South Africa's most important capital - human capital - would be sorely missed," said Democratic Alliance spokesperson Junita Kloppers-Lourens.

Tobias was the only person to simultaneously hold three professorships at Wits, and was known as a friendly, outgoing man, eloquent and able to explain his science to anyone.

In 2002, he had his own popular television series, "Tobias' Bodies".

The series, which he presented and narrated, consisted of six stand-alone episodes exploring themes around genetics, anatomy and primatology.

He also successfully campaigned for the Sterkfontein Caves to be proclaimed a World Heritage site.

The caves form part of the Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai, and their environs, which were declared a cultural World Heritage site in 1999.

- SAPA

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