2023 Public Engagement with Research Award

Professor Ryan Blumenthal

Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Pretoria

Public Engagement with Research

Few have taken public engagement with research as seriously as Professor Ryan Blumenthal, Senior Specialist Forensic Pathologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Forensic Medicine at the University of Pretoria. From academic publisher and television documentarian to non-fiction author and prolific mainstream and social media communicator, he has become a leading voice in the pursuit of connecting science with society.

Over the course of his career as a forensic pathologist and researcher, Prof Blumenthal has established a formidable body of work in the fields of keraunomedicine (the medical study of lightning injuries and casualties), electropathology and suicide that has been recognised internationally. He has published 39 articles in peerreviewed journals, contributing the largest study of the pathology of suicide from a single institution in Africa as well as the largest series on lightning pathology to date. He has also contributed chapters to six international medical and forensic textbooks. He has performed more than
10 000 autopsies, including assisting with the Marikana autopsies, the Life-Esidimeni autopsies and performing an autopsy on a State President.

For DSTV, he conceptualised, wrote and hosted an eight-part documentary on lightning and its effects that has been viewed by more than 2.2 million people and he published the best-selling non-fiction book, Autopsy: Life in the trenches with a forensic pathologist from Africa (Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2020), which seeks to demystify forensic pathology and which made the list for the Sunday Times Book Awards and was short-listed for the SA Booksellers Awards. Autopsy was soon followed by another non-fiction book, Risking Life for Death (Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2023). He also manages his own YouTube channel and website dedicated to communicating science in a way that makes it easy to understand and appreciate. His expertise in lightning pathology led to the creation of guidelines for safety awareness and safety campaigns which are used by South Africa’s sporting sector as well as by society. He holds an NRF C2-rating and sits on the editorial boards of American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology and Academic Forensic Pathology Journal.