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Honorary members

SASS Honorary Members

From time to time the central committee may award honorary membership to any person who, in its opinion, has contributed substantially to spectroscopy. Currently, Professor James Pomfret Willis, Dr Pat Butler, Prof Albertus Strasheim (1917-2007), Prof Kurt Laqua, Fritz Baumgartner, Vic Schuler, Dr Hennie Human, Prof Piet Walters and Ms Gisela Domel are our Honorary Members.

Professor James Pomfret Willis was afforded Honorary Membership of the South African Spectroscopic Society in November 2000. This was in recognition of his dedication to teaching the theory of and practical skills in X-ray spectroscopy as well as for his excellent contributions to research in this field.

Prof. Willis held the position of SASS President from 1986 to 1998. He has received a number of prestigious international awards during his career as a scientist. Furthermore, the X-ray schools held annually at the University of Cape Town and in Ontario, Canada, are of the highest standard.

Professor Willis is known to be a professional who will not hesitate to share his knowledge in his endeavour to ensure a greater understanding and commitment to spectroscopy by his audience. We are thankful that Professor Willis is remaining active during his retirement years as a consultant, thereby making available to industry his vast amount of knowledge and skill.

Dr Pat Butler was awarded Honorary Life Membership in recognition of a lifetime of support for and contributions to the field of spectroscopy, and in particular for his efforts as co founder, honorary secretary and committee member of the Society for the past 11 years.

Prof Albertus Strasheim

Orbituary Dr Albertus Strasheim 1917-2007

Dr Albertus Strasheim (known to most of his friends as “Stras”) passed away peacefully on Thursday 29 Nov. 2007, a week after turning 90, after major surgery to his back. He was well known in scientific circles nationally and internationally, having had a distinguished career as a physicist, spectroscopist and in his later years as sheep farmer.

By Dr Pat Butler

Stras was born on his parents’sheep farm Uitenhage near Springfontein in the Orange Free State. He attended high school and university at Stellenbosch. He obtained his MSc and DSc at the Physics Department of the US, under Prof. S. Meiring Naude (who later became president of the CSIR). His doctoral thesis in 1943 was on the application of spectrochemical methods to the determination of trace elements in plants and plant materials, work of great importance in agriculture. This work earned him the Cornwall and York prize in 1945 and a study tour in the USA.

In 1947 Stras was appointed as head of the Spectrochemistry Division of the newly established National Physical Laboratory in the CSIR. He remained in this position until 1962 when he was appointed as director of the National Physical Research Laboratory. Although in its infancy in 1947, the field of spectral analysis was developing rapidly especially in metallurgical fields where the high speed analysis of metals in production was being demanded. Stras recognized its importance and he developed the first direct reading head for the Hilger Medium spectrograph in the world. He did much for spectroscopy in South Africa, collaborating with Industry, including the precious metal mines, agriculture and with any organization where the analysis of materials was important.

As divisional head, Stras was a hard task master who not only got the best out of his co-workers but established a high degree of enthusiasm. Together with some of his staff members in 1953, he started the Spectroscopic Discussion Group which later became the SA Spectroscopic Society. Stras was founding president and remained president for many years. This society remains a vital and important organization for the advancement of spectroscopy in Southern Africa.

His research covered several fields of atomic spectroscopy, his main interest being in time resolved spark spectroscopy. Stras continued to do research after his appointment as director of the NPRL. He supported, inspired and motivated many young scientists to advance themselves as well as their various branches of research. Stras was known and respected as a “do-er”. His enthusiasm and drive made his division internationally well known. Many research papers in Atomic Absorption, Inductively Coupled, X-Ray Fluoresence, Spark and Arc emission spectroscopy etc., appeared in leading international journals. He was the author and co-author of over 100 papers.

He was a distinguished member, for 12 years, of the Commission V-4 of the International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry (a division of ICSU) and presented many research papers at international symposia. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the bi-yearly held Colloquium Spectroscopicum Internationale (CSI) and served on the editorial boards of Spectrochimica Acta B and The Journal of X-Ray Spectrometry.

As Director and later Chief Director of the NPRL, Stras was convinced that Physics had to be of value to the community as well as bringing new knowledge to the fore. Consequently many of the divisions and subject areas of research were strongly motivated towards the practical applications of Physics. He assembled around him a group of outstanding physicists who were, in several cases, of world standing. Stras rose to the needs of his country on many occasions, e.g. when the serious crisis of sinkholes emerged in the SW Transvaal and NW Free State because of dewatering of the mining areas, he undertook the chairmanship of the “sink-hole committee”. He directed several successful projects to detect potential sinkholes and coordinate methods for preventing catastrophic subsidence’s. In 1964 Stras was awarded the Havenga prize for Physics.

Dr. Strasheim retired from the CSIR at the end of 1982 to take up a research position as Professor in the Chemistry department of the University of Pretoria. Here he was able to apply himself fulltime to time-resolved spectroscopy.

After retiring from the University of Pretoria, Stras returned to the family sheep farm. With his usual drive and methodical way of organizing matters he did exceptionally well and increased not only the size of his flocks, but also the number of his farms. In spite of this full time occupation, Stras kept up with his interests in spectroscopy and whenever he could, he would ask about and discuss developments.

Stras will always be remembered with respect and affection by those who worked for and with him as well as by his large circle of friends locally and abroad.


Fritz Baumgartner was awarded Honorary Life Membership in recognition of a lifetime of support for and contributions to the field of spectroscopy, and in particular for his efforts as honorary secretary of the Society for the past 11 years.

Vic Schuler was awarded Honorary Life Membership in recognition of a lifetime of support for and contributions to the field of spectroscopy, and in particular for his efforts as chairman of the Main Organising Committee of the Third International IUPAC Symposium on Analytical Chemistry in the Exploration, Mining and Processing of Materials, Johannesburg, 1992.

Dr Hennie Human

Prof Piet Walters

Ms Gisela Domel

Prof Kurt Laqua