The National Research Foundation regrets to announce the passing of Gerhard von Gruenewaldt, a former vice-president of the organisation and one of its driving forces in its progress since its establishment.
He joined the NRF’s forerunner, the Foundation for Research Development (FRD) in 1992 as vice-president for programmes and planning where he was instrumental in realigning research support for higher education with the changing realities and needs of the new South Africa. On the establishment of the NRF, he was appointed its vice-president and managing director for its Research Support Division where he helped integrate the activities of the former FRD and the Centre for Science Development (CSD) and the establishment of the new research support framework for the natural sciences, engineering, social sciences and humanities. He also oversaw the Technology and Human Resource for Industry Programme (THRIP) on behalf of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Innovation Fund on behalf of the Department of Science and Technology.
Gerhard also worked as a consultant and part time research advisor to the University of the Witwatersrand. In recent years he was involved extensively with various projects relating to the evaluation of research programmes and research infrastructure. Apart from his involvement with TechnoScene in the study of “The Required Physical Infrastructure to Attain the Vision of the National System of Innovation”; an “Interim Review of the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI)”; and a review of the National Equipment and the National Nanotechnology Equipment programmes, he conducted investigations entitled “A Proposed Recapitalisation Strategy of the National Research Facilities” and “An Optimal Model for the Establishment of a South African Polar Research Entity”, both for the NRF. He served as chairperson of the five yearly review of the Council for Geoscience in 2009 and, since retiring from the NRF, remained involved with the evaluation and rating of South African scientists.
Gerhard was born in Germany in 1942 and studied Geology at the University of Pretoria where he obtained his BSc, Honours, Master’s and Doctorate and where he worked as Lecturer and Head of the university’s Geology Department for 13 years. He was awarded a Research Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation at the University of Munich in 1974. He was appointed an Honorary Professorship in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Pretoria in 2002.
As a scientist, Gerhard made significant contributions to research on the genesis of rocks in the unique Bushveld Complex and associated ore deposits. His work, particularly in the field of platinum mineralisation, led to valuable new insights regarding the nature of occurrence and genesis of these important ores which, besides earning him international recognition as a scientist, including an A-rating from the FRD in 1989, have had considerable importance for the South African mining industry.
Among his many achievements, Gerhard was awarded the Corstorphine Medal and student’s prize from the Geological Society of South Africa in 1966 and its Draper Memorial Medal in 1990 as well as the Award for Excellent Achievements from the University of Pretoria. He authored and co-authored more than 60 research papers and supervised 23 masters and seven doctoral students.
The NRF gratefully acknowledges Gerhard’s contribution to the advancement of science in South Africa.
He leaves behind a wife and two children.