In remembrance: Jean Cleymans

01 March 2021

Dear colleagues and students

It is with a heavy heart that we share news of the passing of Emeritus Professor Jean Cleymans (76) on 22 February 2021 in Turnhout, Belgium. 

At the time of his passing Professor Cleymans was a senior research scholar within the Department of Physics at the University of Cape Town (UCT). He was appointed to UCT as a senior lecturer in 1985, and later became professor and head of the Physics department. He also served on a number of senior UCT committees. Those who attended his courses will remember the outstanding way in which he delivered a sequence of complex ideas through mathematical formalism, but always grounding them by reference to observation and experiment.

Professor Cleymans made considerable contributions to theoretical physics with a particular focus on relativistic heavy ion collisions, most recently at the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva. His research work mainly explored the phases of quark and nuclear matter at times very soon after the Big Bang. Professor Cleymans was instrumental in establishing the SA-CERN programme over a decade ago, which continues to support South African scientists at CERN.

An NRF A-rated researcher since 1985, Professor Cleymans was the recipient of a number of awards throughout his career including the Alexander von Humboldt Research Prize in 1999. He authored and co-authored more than 300 articles on theoretical physics and supervised more than 40 master of science students and PhD candidates, many of whom are making their own significant impact in physics today.

He will be remembered by the Department of Physics and the national and international physics communities more broadly as an outstanding physicist, a dedicated supervisor and lecturer, and above all someone who loved the academy and strived to make a significant and long-lasting contribution to South African science.

Professor Cleymans is survived by his wife, Ria; daughters, Sylvie and Silke; and son-in-law, Rene.

He will be laid to rest in Belgium on Monday, 1 March at 15:30 (GMT+2). Those who would like to attend the service can do so via this link.

The Department of Physics will communicate details of a memorial service at a later stage via their website and social media channels.

The university has offered its condolences and support to the Cleymans family during this difficult time and our thoughts are with them and all his colleagues and friends.


The UCT Executive

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