Honorary Doctorate for SKA Head
Project Director of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) South Africa Telescope Project, Dr Bernard Fanaroff, has been awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree from UKZN.
Addressing fellow graduates at the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science Graduation ceremony on the Westville campus, Fanaroff said of his degree: ‘It’s recognition of two things – first, that South Africa is paying more and more attention to the important role of science and technology in the country’s development and is helping provide a better life for South Africa’s citizens.
‘And second, it recognises the team that has made the SKA project possible, including academic and international collaborators, scientist and engineers. ‘UKZN has been so enthusiastic and committed to working on this project, but goes further than simply looking for support from SKA; it has been prepared to make a substantial investment which is a great example for other universities.
‘I also have a long historical connection with Durban through my early work with trade unions, so it’s nice to be associated with the university there; it’s almost like coming home.
Fanaroff assisted in the creation of the Metal & Allied Workers’ Union, later known as the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa), and also became a member of Cosatu’s Executive Committee.
He was nominated by Professor Sunil Maharaj, Director of UKZN’s Astrophysics and Cosmology Research Unit (ACRU), to be awarded the doctorate which recognises ‘distinguished services in the advancement of one or more of the branches of learning recognised by the University’.
‘Fanaroff’s training, industrial experience, organisational skills, and a deep scientific interest in radio astronomy were the ideal combination for South Africa’s bid to host the SKA project,’ said Maharaj. ‘The preparation of this proposal involved years of work, including the co-ordination of information from a wide range of areas. His organisational and analytical skills were key to the success of the award.
‘Under his careful direction the SKA South Africa programme has grown and is now taking concrete shape. The results flowing from the project will yield a wealth of information and the international scientific impact will be profound.’
Fanaroff is well-known for his scientific contribution to radio astronomy, specifically the classification of radio galaxies with jets into FRI (Fanaroff-Riley type I) and FRII (Fanaroff-Riley type II) sources. The development of this classification system worked on together with Julia Riley formed part of his PhD while at Cambridge University and is used ubiquitously in the study of radio galaxies. Part of the SKA galaxy evolution science case is to understand the distinction between FRI and FRII radio galaxies.
Fanaroff was appointed Project Director of the SKA project in 2003 after leading South Africa's successful bid to establish the multi-billion euro telescope initiative and secure the nation’s place in global “megascience” projects. He is an internationally respected figure in the science community, known for his sustained contributions to developing a strong base in various branches of science and its applications in South Africa.
‘Dr Bernie Fanaroff, the driving force behind South Africa winning the major part of the SKA, has ensured that with the SKA will come a technological revolution, world-class science and inspiration for a new generation of bright young scientific minds. Bernie has had the vision and perseverance to make these a reality,’ said Professor Kavilan Moodley, Associate Professor at the ACRU.
Fanaroff is no stranger to the world of academia. He studied Physics at the University of the Witwatersrand and received his Doctorate in Radio Astronomy from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. He lectured at the University of the Witwatersrand in the 1970s before moving to work on labour unions.
Fanaroff is also a Visiting Professor in Physics at the University of Oxford, Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, a member of the International Astronomical Union and a founding member of the South African Academy for Science.
‘UKZN is proud to honour Bernie Fanaroff – a truly engaged South African who continues to work to improve the lives of his fellow citizens through his scientific work,’ said Professor Kesh Govinder, Dean and Head of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science at UKZN.
‘We have strong links with him through the SKA and he has continued to support our efforts to strengthen our (already considerable) national and international footprint in Astrophysics and Cosmology.’
- Christine Cuénod