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Friday, 08 June 2012 05:49

Professor Emeritus Phillip Tobias: Honouring an inspirational Witsie

Written by  Vuvuzela Newspaper

Akinoluwa Oyedele: Professor Emeritus Philip Tobias died yesterday at the Wits University Donald Gordon medical centre at the age of 86.

Tobias was a world-renowned scientist and palaeontologist, having received three Nobel Prize nominations. A Professor Emeritus at Wits, he was involved not only in the advancement of the sciences and exploring the evolution of human kind, but was a great support of human rights and dignity.

President Jacob Zuma said in a statement, “We have lost a renowned scientist, a scholar and a unique human being. Our country remains eternally proud of his work.”

In his 50 years at Wits, Tobias served as the head of the Human Biology and Anatomy, the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Honorary Professor of Palaeoanthropology and Professor of Zoology.

Tobias’s involvement in the initial excavation of the Sterkfontein caves, now a World Heritage site, resulted in the discovery of many early hominid fossils, advancing our knowledge of the origins of humankind.

In recent years, Tobias has been involved in protests at the university against xenophobia, the government’s initial HIV/AIDS policies and the government’s denial of the Dalai Lama’s visa to visit South Africa.

Tobias was instrumental in the return of Saartjie Bartman’s remains to South Africa in 2002. Bartman was an African woman taken to Europe to be showcased for her “unusual” body and form as an African woman.

His multiple achievements, awards and honorary doctorates include a National Order form the Presidency and a lifetime achievement award from the National Research Foundation.

Tobias has authored and co-authored over 33 books and 1130 publications.

Following the news of his death, several tributes poured in for the man who President Jacob Zuma described as "a renowned scientist, a scholar and a unique human being".

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