Some history of the Department

The first lectures in Botany and Zoology at the University of Pretoria, then known as the "Transvaal Universiteitskollege" (TUK), commenced in March 1909. The only lecturer at the time was a well-known entomologist Dr A J T Janse. In 1910, Prof H A Wager became the first permanently-appointed lecturer in the Department of Botany and was later assisted by Dr B Elbrecht and Prof J M Hector. Prof H A Wager resigned in 1923. Prof C E B. Bremekamp became the new Head of the Department of Botany in 1924. He was succeeded by Prof B Elbrecht as Head of Department following his resignation in 1931.
At this time the Department of Botany was housed in the old Agriculture building. In 1940, the Department moved to a newly-built Botany building, designed by Gerard Moerdyk, in the northwest corner of our modernday UP main campus.

Prof B Elbrecht retired in 1944 and was succeeded by Prof Margaretha G Mes as Head of Department in April 1944. She was known for her exceptional research in the field of plant physiology and was the second woman to be appointed as professor at the University of Pretoria.  In 1949, the Bateman laboratory was erected and is one of the very first phytotrons in the world to be built. Two more buildings, the Vetman building (after Veterans of WWII) and the Bertha Stoneman building were also erected and together with the Bateman laboratory became the unofficial "Plant Physiological Research Institute" in 1954.

When Prof Mes passed away on 25 July 1959 the unofficial institute officially became the "Margaretha Mes Institute for Plant Physiology".  In 1959, Prof N Grobbelaar succeeded Prof Mes as Head of the Department of Plant Physiology, while Prof H G W J Schweickerdt acted as Head of the Department of Botany. When Prof Schweickerdt retired in 1963, Prof H P van der Schijff succeeded him as Head of the Department of Botany. The two botany departments merged in 1975 when Prof Van der Schijff was promoted to Dean of the Faculty of Mathematical and Natural Sciences. Prof Grobbelaar acted as Head of the merged Department of Botany. Prof Grobbelaar remained a professor in the Department after he stepped down in 1986.

Prof Albert Eicker became the new Head of Department in October 1986. Prof J J M (Marion) Meyer succeeded Prof Eicker as Head of the Department of Botany when he retired in 2000. The Department of Botany was renamed as the Department of Plant Science in January 2008. Staff members from several buildings on campus were reunited in the new Plant Sciences Complex in 2011.

Prof Nigel Barker is the current Head of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.

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