In Memorium

19 June 2019, 11:17


The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) expressed its condolences on the passing of the pioneering biologist, Dr Sydney Brenner, Foreign Associate Member of ASSAf and Prof Michael Feast, ASSAf Member.

Sydney Brenner was a two-time recipient of the Canada Gairdner International Award and the 2002 Nobel Prize Laureate in Physiology or Medicine. He has been widely recognised as one of the key contributors to the understanding of modern molecular biology, programmed cell death (apoptosis), and the role of genes in organ development. He has been instrumental not only in shaping the understanding of modern molecular genetics and cell biology but his research using C. elegans has been fundamental to its adoption as a model organism worldwide. He was proleptic Director of the MRC Laboratory where he later set up a Unit of Molecular Genetics based in the Department of Medicine. He founded The Molecular Sciences Institute in California, USA. He retired from the Institute in 2000 and in 2001 was appointed a Distinguished Professor in the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Brenner donated a portion of his 2002 Nobel Prize to ASSAf to permit ASSAf (in partnership with the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust) to offer a prestigious postdoctoral Sydney Brenner Fellowship Programme for research in molecular biology to be undertaken in South Africa over two years by an outstanding young scientist.

Prof Michael Feast (1926 − 2019) was elected to ASSAf in 1996. He was recognised and honoured as one of the most outstanding and celebrated scholars in the field of astronomy and contributed to scholarly activities in this country to a significant extent. He will be remembered as a giant in the South African science fraternity and South African science is the poorer for his loss. As a person, he was humble, helpful and humourous, and the twinkle in his eye was his most striking feature. He liked to point out the carefully tended area of grassy lawn at the SAAO that represented the last refugium on this earth of a very rare Erica species.
ASSAf salutes these giants of science.