8 February 2016
Kevin Govender: first South African to be awarded the prestigious Edinburgh medal
The 2016 Edinburgh Medal will be jointly awarded to Kevin Govender from IAU’s Office of Astronomy for Development and the International Astronomical Union (IAU) on Wednesday 30 March at the 2016 Edinburgh International Science Festival, to recognise their wide-reaching contribution to science.
It is awarded jointly for the creation and practical establishment of the Office of Astronomy for Development, which integrates the pursuit of scientific knowledge with social development for and with those most in need. Under the pioneering stewardship of Kevin Govender, the Office of Astronomy for Development, hosted at the South African Astronomical Observatory in partnership with the National Research Foundation and the South African Department of Science and Technology, has successfully harnessed astronomy in the service of global education and capacity building.
The Edinburgh Medal is a prestigious award given each year to men and women of science and technology whose professional achievements are judged to have made a significant contribution to the understanding and well-being of humanity. The 2016 Edinburgh International Science Festival will run from 26 March to 10 April.
Upon hearing the news, the director of SA Astronomical Observatory, Professor Ted Williams said, “Kevin Govender has been the driving force behind the spectacular success of the IAU Office of Astronomy for Development. His passion and boundless energy for using astronomy to promote a better world for everyone inspire all who meet him. The South African Astronomical Observatory is proud to both host the Office of Astronomy for Development and to claim Kevin as one of our illustrious associates.”
Kevin began work at the OAD in 2011 as its first Director. During his previous position as the Manager of the Southern African Large Telescope’s Collateral Benefits Programme at the South African Astronomical Observatory he worked extensively, especially within the African continent, in the area of “astronomy for development”. He chaired the Developing Astronomy Globally Cornerstone Project of the International Year of Astronomy in 2009 and was involved in the development of the IAU Strategic Plan. Coming from an experimental nuclear physics background and with experience from many community development initiatives in post-apartheid South Africa, Kevin was previously named one of the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans, and received the National Science and Technology Forum’s Science Communicator award in 2011.
Kevin Govender and President of the IAU Silvia Torres Peimbert will be presented with the Edinburgh Medal at the Chambers of the City of Edinburgh Council on Wednesday 30 March. They will give the Edinburgh Medal Address: Astronomy for a Better World as part of the 2016 Edinburgh International Science Festival, in the presence of Lord (Martin) Rees, the UK Astronomer Royal.
On behalf of the IAU, its President Silvia Torres Peimbert said; “I am delighted that the work of the IAU in the field of development has been recognised by the award of this medal. Astronomy is an exciting and stimulating pursuit and has a large part to play in inspiring the next generation of scientists from developing countries. I hope this award will highlight this important work and encourage others to contribute.”
“This is a significant achievement for Kevin Govender and the IAU-OAD, and we feel very proud that Kevin has been recognised in this way. It is also timely, as we have just gone through a review of the OAD less than a year ago which highlighted the excellent achievements of the Office of Astronomy for Development(OAD) since its inception in 2010. IAU and NRF/DST subsequently renewed the Agreement to co-host OAD at SAAO in Cape Town for another six years until 2021. As a part of the Review, DST agreed to fund an additional post within OAD at the level of a PhD (Astronomy), while IAU had agreed to appoint an international fund-raiser. The future looks very bright indeed, as the joint principals for the OAD have continued to express strong support and confidence in the work of the OAD. OAD is an important gateway for South Africa’s astronomical developmental goals in Africa and broadly in the world, and I would like to see the good offices of the OAD being much better utilised by us in South Africa to advance Astronomy internationally”, said Prof. Nithaya Chetty.
The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together more than 12 thousand professional astronomers from around the world. Its mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. The IAU also serves as the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and the surface features on them. Founded in 1919, the IAU is the world’s largest professional body for astronomers.
The IAU established the Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) in partnership with the South African National Research Foundation (NRF), with support from the South African Department of Science and Technology. The OAD was officially opened by Minister Naledi Pandor on 16 April 2011 at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) in Cape Town, South Africa. It is tasked with the implementation of the IAU Strategic Plan including the establishment of regional offices and three astronomy-for-development “Task Forces”: (i) Universities and Research; (ii) Children and Schools; and (iii) Public Outreach.
The Edinburgh Medal
Made of Sterling silver, the Edinburgh Medal is produced by capital firm Alexander Kirkwood & Son and features the original Edinburgh International Science Festival logo – a juggler performing with different symbols of science in the air.
Past recipients of the Edinburgh Medal:
1989 Professor Abdus Salam
1990 Professor Stephen J Gould
1991 Professor Jane Goodall
1992 Professor Heinz Wolff
1993 Professor Wangari Maathai
1994 Professor Manuel Pattarroyo
1995 Sir John Crofton
1996 Professor Richard Levins
1997 Professor Amartya Sen
1998 Sir David Attenborough
1999 Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell
2000 Professor Lynn Margulis
2001 Sir John Sulston
2002 Lise Kingo
2003 Professor Wang Sung
2004 Professor Steven Rose
2005 Professor Colin Blakemore
2006 Professor James Lovelock
2007 Dr Richard Horton
2008 Professor Chris Rapley CBE
2009 Professor John Beckwith
2010 Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys
2011 Professor Carl Djerassi
2012 Dr James Hansen
2013 Professor Peter Higgs/Cern
2014 Prof Mary Abukutsa-Onyango
2015 Mary Midgley