Welcome to Stellenbosch University

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FrameofMinddustjacket.JPG The Faculty of Science is an established and leading institution with a proud tradition of teaching and research that date back to its earliest beginnings in 1866. 

The following section gives a short overview of its early history, developments since 1918, and the Faculty of Science today, including a list of all deans of science since 1918.

The comprehensive history of SU's Faculty of Science since 1866 has now been documented in text and pictures in a full colour coffee-table edition, titled A Particular Frame of Mind: Faculty of Science, Stellenbosch University, 1918-2018.​​

Early History

1866 ​The origin o​​f the Faculty of Science date back to 1866, when courses in Mathematics and Natural Science formed part of the education offered at the Stellenbossche Gymnasium (today's Paul Roos Gymnasium).
1874 The tertiary division of the Gymnasium, the so-called Arts Department, is established after a change in legislation which replaced the former Board of Examiners with the University of the Cape of Good Hope. 
1881 In 1881 the Arts Department received College-status and became known as the Stellenbosch College.


In 1874 the Scotsman, Professor George Gordon, was appointed as the first professor of mathematics and natural sciences. At the time, there were only two professors in the Arts Department.
1875 Of the five students registered for the BA-degree, only one graduated.
1878 HJL du Toit becomes the first student in the Cape of Good Hope to obtain an MA-degree in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy under Professor Gordon's supervision.

Polisiekantoor.jpgVictoria College's Department of Language and Science was originally housed in a small building which still exists today on the corner of Plein and Ryneveld Streets in Stellenbosch. In 1893 Prof William Thomson described it as “a two-roomed thatched cottage that leaked with every shower in winter". The scientific equipment for its Laboratory for Experimental Sciences was stored in two wall cupboards of a few cubic feet each. In 1886 the college relocated to the Old Main Building (“Ou Hoofgebou").

1887 To celebrate Queen Victoria's fifty years on the throne, the College's name was changed to Victoria College
1903 The Old Main building quickly became too small, and in 1903, on the initiative of Professor John Todd Morrison, the Jan Marais Building for Physics was completed.
The status of Victoria College changed to that of the University of Stellenbosch, with the Faculty of Mathematics and Science as one of the four established faculties of the new institution. In 1957 the faculty was renamed the Faculty of Science.

Since 1918

​When the University of Stellenbosch was established in 1918, disciplines such as Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Geology, Zoology and Botany were already well-established. In 1922 the Department of Physiology was established with Professor PJ Battaerd as head.
1925 Establishment of the Department of Home Econo​mics with Miss Ivy van der Merwe as lecturer. In 2001 the unbundling of this department led to a BSc-stream in Textiles and Polymers within the Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science.


Print-out of the first computer programme performed on the University's first electronic computer, an IBM 1620.
1969 In 1969 the Department of Mathematics introduced a one-year course in Computer Science and in 1970 the Department of Computer Science was established with Professor George Murray as its first head of department.
1974 The Department of Biochemistry was established in 1974 after the merger of the division biochemistry in the Department of Chemistry with the Department of Agricultural Chemistry. Professor JH Barnardt was the first head and Professor JL de Wit the first professor in this new department.
1995 The Central Analytical Facility (CAF) was established in 1995 with seven large analytical instruments. Today researchers and postgraduate students have access to state-of-the-art analytical equipment, supported by highly skilled technicians. This includes a CT scanner, DNA sequencer, Electron Microscopy, Fluorescence Microscopy, Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry and X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy, Mass Spectrometry, Neuromechanics, and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance.
1997 The origin of the Department of Microbiology as we know it today dates to 1918 with research activities in the Department of Plant Pathology in the Faculty of Agriculture.  The main thrust of research was to isolate and study fungi important to the agricultural sector. In 1958 Professor Hennie Louw became the first South African scientist to obtain a PhD in microbiology. In 1961 the Department of Plant Disease Studies and Microbiology became two separate academic departments, with Professor Louw as the first head of the new Department of Microbiology. In 1997 the Department of Microbiology became part of the Faculty of Science.
2000 Over the past two decades the departmental structure of the Faculty of Science has changed significantly to keep up with growing student numbers, changing academic needs and international trends. In the early 2000s the Departments of Botany and Zoology strengthened their research focus areas by merging into the much larger Department of Botany and Zoology. Within the Mathematical Sciences greater synergy between different research fields was created with the merger in 2006 of the Departments of Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and Computer Science to become the Department of Mathematical Sciences (Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Computer Science). Previously, Applied Mathematics and Computer Science resorted in the Faculty of Engineering.
2004 The DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology was awarded to the Faculty of Science with Prof Steven Chown as its first director.
2006 The faculty acquires another two centra of excellence: The South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA) and the National Institute for Theoretical Physics (NITHeP).
2010 The Stellenbosch University Water Institute (SUWI) is established on initiative of the then dean, Professor Eugene Cloete, to synchronise the many water research groups within the greater university environment. Under the leadership of Prof Gideon Wolfaardt, the aim is to drive the development of technology, innovation and further research to tackle the challenges faced in a water-restricted country.

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Prof Louise Warnich is appointed as dean of the Faculty of Science, the first female dean in the faculty's history. She serves for two terms (2014-2024) and is succeeded by Prof. Burtram Fielding in April 2024.
2016 A bio-informatics specialist, Prof Hugh Patterton, is appointed to establish an inter-faculty Centre for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. The appointment of Professor Bubacarr Bah in the Humboldt Chair in Big Data Analysis at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in 2017 further strengthens this initiative.
2018 The Faculty of Science publishes a coffee-table book celebrating a hundred years of science at SU, titled A Particular Frame of Mind: Faculty of Science, Stellenbosch University, 1918-2018.
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Our Buildings

The Natural Sciences Building was the second building after Education to be completed in 1916 opposite the old rugby field. It housed the Departments of Zoology, Botany, Geology and Applied Mathematics.
​The second building, the De Beers Building for Chemistry, was completed in 1923. Over time, six buildings for the science faculty were constructed along Merriman Street. These buildings still house the original academic departments for which they were intended:
  • The Merensky Building for Physics (1940)
  • The First Year Chemistry Building (1957)
  • The Chamber of Mines Building for Geology (1963)
  • The Anatomy and Physiology Building (1957)
  • ​The JC Smuts Building for Microbiology, Biochemistry and Genetics (2000).
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Victoria College Senate 1904 

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​Deans of science - 1918 to present

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P​rof BC Fielding
April 2024 - ​

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P​rof L Warnich
2014 - 2024

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Prof TE Cloete
2009 - 2012


Prof ​DE Rawlings (acting)
2008, 2012 - 2013

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Prof A van Jaarsveld
 2002 - 2007


Prof FJW Hahne 
1991 - 2001​

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Prof C Engelbrecht
1988 - 1991

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Prof  JA de Bruyn
1977 - 1991

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Prof MJ de Vries
1974 - 1976


Prof WL Mouton
1970 - 1973


Prof SRF Göldner


Prof EFCH Rohwer
1967 - 1968 

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Prof CA​ du Toit
1957 - 1959, 1966 

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Prof GG Cillié
1963 - 1965 

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Prof AC Cilliers
1960 - 1962

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Prof HE Brink
1954 - 1956 

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Prof JM Joubert
 1947 - 1953 ​

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Prof CGS de Villiers 
1931 - 1935, 1945 - 1946 

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Prof GC Nel
1929 - 1930







Prof ET Stegmann
1925 - 1927

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Prof DF du Toit
1920 - 1924; 1936 - 1944

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Prof JT Morrison
1918 - 1919


Prof G Gordon

First professor of mathematics, Victoria College 1874