University of the Witwatersrand Geosciences Department
University of the Witwatersrand Geosciences Department – See Details Below:
The School of Geosciences traces its origins to 1904 when the Kimberley School of Mines was relocated to Johannesburg in recognition of the economic importance of the Witwatersrand goldfields. Through the years, the Department of Geology was joined by several research units and groups with specialist interests in geosciences that operated quasi-independently from the Department.
These included the Bernard Price Institute of Geophysics (founded in 1936), the Bernard Price Institute of Palaeontology (founded in 1945), and the Economic Geology Research Unit (EGRU; founded in 1957). Isotope research was conducted within BPI Geophysics and resulted in the establishment of a large isotope facility (latterly known as the Hugh Allsopp Laboratory or HAL) in the 1970s, which pioneered several major breakthroughs in isotope geochronology.
Academics in these institutes contributed to teaching in geophysics and palaeontology, and parallel departments were established in these disciplines.
In January 2001, as part of a campus-wide rationalisation exercise, the University administration established the School of Geosciences, by placing all of these entities within a single administrative structure, headed by Prof. Paul Dirks, who was appointed in April 2002.
This rationalisation led to the closure of the BPI Geophysics and HAL. Paul Dirks was succeeded as Head of the School in 2009 by Prof. Roger Gibson, who in turn was succeeded by Prof. Gillian Drennan in 2019. The School continues to enjoy strong and fruitful links with the minerals exploration and mining industries, both locally and internationally.
The BPI Palaeontology has developed close links with the Institute for Human Evolution within the University, further strengthening palaeosciences research and training. Geophysics training and research have been strengthened by the development, together with Penn State University (USA) and the Council for Geoscience, of a long-term continent-wide capacity-building programme called AfricaArray.