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SU researchers appear in new Afrikaans children's book about South African scientists
Author: Division for Research Development
Published: 30/11/2020

​​Quite a few Stellenbosch University researchers are among the more than 100 South Africans whose stories of ingenuity and brainpower have been included in a new children's book, "Uitvinders, Planmakers en ander Slimkoppe van Suid-Afrika".

The book, written by freelance science writer Engela Duvenage, is published by LAPA. Duvenage is an alumnus of Stellenbosch University, and in 2001 obtained an MPhil in Journalism (specializing in science journalism).

"It tells the stories of various pioneers or inventions and discoveries made by South Africans in the fields of science, healthcare, geology, space science, botany and zoology, engineering, aviation, climatology and astronomy," says Duvenage. “It celebrates our science heroes, and people who through their ingenuity and tenacity try to make the world a better, more interesting place."

It also includes a section on the five Nobel Prize winners in the sciences who all grew up and studied in South Africa.

Among the Stellenbosch University researchers whose stories are included are dragonfly expert Prof Michael Samways, microbiologist Prof Leon Dicks (whose research led to the probiotic entiro), engineers Prof Thinus Booysen (who developed the Geasy cellphone-based water and electricity meter, and has helped many schools save extensively on their municipal bills) and Prof Herman Steyn (who helped build an important instrument that allowed people to land a spacecraft on a comet for the first time in 2014), penis transplant specialist and urologist Prof Andre van der Merwe and Prof Savel Daniels (who discoverer numerous species of velvet worms and crabs). The story is also told how it came about that a rare water beetle found in the Cape was named after Prof James Pryke of the Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology.

Several SU alumni, including engineer Henri Johnson (designer of the Speedgun that measures the speed of a cricket ball) and Boeing pilot Fatima Jakoet (who started the Sakhikamvu Foundation to teach children about the scientific principles of aviation), are also included. The section on plant experts features the story of how Phyllis Burger of the Agricultural Research Council, and an alumnus of the SU Faculty of AgriSciences, developed a new grape cultivar called Joybells.

Along with stories about inventions such as Pratley Putty and the Kreepy Krauly, there is also the story of how five engineering graduates from SU, brothers Dewald and Schalk Nolte, Niel Müller, Altus van Tonder and Christiaan Brand started the internet banking security company Entersekt. Young readers can also read about how Dr Chris Leatt developed the Leatt neck brace to protect motorcyclists.

The book also contains stories from South Africa's scientific past. It tells the life story of Dr Hendrik van der Bijl, who studied at Victoria College and helped to establish Eskom, SASOL and ISCOR in the 1920s and 1930s. Vanderbijlpark was named after him. Also included in the book is the story of how Prof Abraham Perold, first professor of viticulture and oenology at SU and the father of Pinotage wine, brought Barlinka table grapes to South Africa.

“Uitvinders, planmakers en ander Slimkoppe van Suid-Afrika" is available in the children's section of most bookshops or can be ordered online at An English edition is set for mid-2020.

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