In memory: Professor Johann Lutjeharms

13 June 2011 | Story by Newsroom

Professor Johann LutjeharmsIn memory: Prof Johann Lutjeharms, here with the Individual Over a Lifetime Award presented to him by the National Science and Technology Forum in 2008, has died.

UCT's Professor Johann Lutjeharms, one of Southern Africa's leading marine scientists and the foremost authority on the Agulhas Current, died on 8 June after a 10-year battle with cancer. He was 67 years old.

Tributes to Lutjeharms have been pouring in from across over the world.

Lutjeharms, of UCT's Department of Oceanography, will be remembered and honoured for his academic passion, his prodigious contributions to peer-reviewed scientific literature, the scores of international awards and other honours he received, as well as for his modesty and the support he provided to young researchers and students.

He served as a visiting academic at many universities around the world, thus building the international reputation of African marine science and the oceans around this continent. He was a A-rated researcher since 1998, identifying him as an international leader in his field.

Among the many accolades he received was the Order of Mapungubwe (Silver), the country's highest national honour, presented to him by President Jacob Zuma in 2010 for his outstanding contributions to and achievements in oceanographic science. Lutjeharms was also a winner of the 2008 Individual Over a Lifetime Award from the National Science and Technology Forum.

In addition, he was one of only three UCT academics to have won all three of the university's main forms of recognition for academics: the UCT Fellowship, the Distinguished Teacher Award, and its Book Prize/Meritorious Publication Award.

Internationally he served on working groups of the Scientific Committee for Oceanic Research, the International Union of Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, and the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Ocean. He was also the expert consultant in oceanography for the Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal.

Lutjeharms completed his undergraduate studies in physics. In 1971 he received his MSc (cum laude) in oceanography from UCT. He was awarded the Harry Crossley Bursary, the Fisheries Development Corporation postgraduate overseas bursary and the CSIR overseas bursary to study for a PhD at the University of Washington, where he graduated in 1977. He then joined the National Research Institute for Oceanology, where he held the position of chief specialist researcher.

He was appointed to the Chair of Ocean Climatology at UCT in 1990. In 1993 he became the founding director of UCT's Centre for Marine Studies.

A thanksgiving service is planned for Tuesday, 14 June, at 11h00, at Moederkerk Dutch Reformed Church in Stellenbosch.

Lutjeharms is survived by his wife, Ronel, and their children Maria and Wilhelm.

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