Former Chief Scientific Adviser to the British government, Sir David King, presents Centenary Lecture

Posted on May 08, 2008

It took place at the University’s Senate Hall on Wednesday, 23 April 2008. Twenty first century challenges for science and global policy was the title of the Victor Pretorius memorial lecture which commenced at 18:30.

Sir David King is the Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment at the University of Oxford. He was the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of the Government Office of Science from October 2000 to 31 December 2007. In that time, he raised the profile of the need for governments to act on climate change and was instrumental in creating the new £1 billion Energy Technologies Institute.

“Sir David was appointed Chief Scientific Adviser to the British Government and Head of the Office of Science and Technology from 2000 up to the end of 2007. In this capacity, he advised Prime Minister Tony Blair and later Gordon Brown directly on scientific issues,” says Prof Ströh, Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Pretoria.

In 2008 he co-authored “The Hot Topic” (Bloomsbury 2008) on this subject. As Director of the Government’s Foresight Programme, he created an in-depth horizon scanning process which advised government on a wide range of long term issues, from flooding to obesity. He also chaired the government’s Global Science and Innovation Forum from its inception. He advised government on issues including: The foot-and-mouth disease epidemic 2001; post 9/11 risks to the UK; GM foods; energy provision; and innovation and wealth creation; and he was heavily involved in the Government’s Science and Innovation Strategy 2004-2014.

“His prime area of scientific specialisation is Physical Chemistry and the study of some of the most fundamental processes on catalytic surfaces,” elaborates Prof Egmont Rohwer from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Pretoria. Prof Rohwer asserts that his research papers, mostly dealing with the study of surface reactions by novel instrumental methods, include 12 articles in the prestigious Nature journal, 3 of them appearing as recently as the year 2004.

The Victor Pretorius lecture series was pioneered by the Department of Chemistry of the University of Pretoria in 1992, as a tribute to one of the leading South African scientists for exceptional contributions during a career in chemistry. The presenters of the lectures are chosen annually by the department from the diverse documented fields of chemistry. The selected lecturer is requested to render a formal lecture, known as the Victor Pretorius Memorial Lecture, to invited visitors of the department, personnel and students of the department. More often than not, this is followed by another lecture to students and personnel.

Earlier that same day, Sir David delivered a student-directed lecture at 10:30. The Hot Topic (climate change) was the title of this first lecture which was specifically aimed and presented to students who are interested in the Sciences. The interest in this topic could be confirmed by the hall being packed to maximum capacity. Sir David was conferred an honorary doctorate in Chemistry from the University of Pretoria at a graduation ceremony during that same day.

Click here to see a video clip of Sir David's address.

Audio files of his address are also available - click here for our audio archives.


Sir David King with UP Vice-Chancellor Prof Calie Pistorius


Sir David (middle) with Dean of Natural and Agricultural Science, Prof. Anton Stroh (left) and Vice-Chancellor Prof. Pistorius (right)



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