Local astronomer Kevin Govender from the Cape Town-based Office of Astronomy for Development and the International Astronomical Union (IAU) will become the first South African to be awarded at the 2016 Edinburgh International Science Festival.
At the event set for 30 March, Govender will be jointly awarded with the 2016 Edinburgh Medal recognising his wide-reaching contributions to the science field.
The Edinburgh Medal is given each year to men and women of science and technology whose professional achievements are judged to have made a significant contribution to the understanding and well-being of humanity.
The Edinburgh International Science Festival is a science festival which takes place each year in Edinburgh, Scotland. It is one of the largest science festivals in Europe.
Govender will be awarded jointly for the creation and practical establishment of the Office of Astronomy for Development, which integrates the pursuit of scientific knowledge with social development for and with those most in need.
"Besides its technological, scientific and cultural contributions, astronomy fundamentally gives us the perspective we need to change the world," says Govender.
"It is amazing to see how this vision has rallied people and organisations from just about every continent. It has been, and continues to be, a journey driven by many with a shared passion for both science and society."
The Office of Astronomy for Development was set up in 2011 by minister of science and technology Naledi Pandor. The office's mission is to help further the use of astronomy as a tool for development by mobilising the human and financial resources necessary in order to realise the field's scientific, technological and cultural benefits to society.
Under the stewardship of Govender, the Office of Astronomy for Development, hosted at the South African Astronomical Observatory in partnership with the National Research Foundation and the South African Department of Science and Technology, has harnessed astronomy in the service of global education and capacity-building.
Govender began work at the office in March 2011 as its first director. He gained experience using astronomy for development during his previous position as manager of the SALT Collateral Benefits Programme at the South African Astronomical Observatory. He also chaired the Developing Astronomy Globally Cornerstone Project of the International Year of Astronomy and was involved in the development of the IAU Strategic Plan.
Govender and president of the IAU, Silvia Torres Peimbert, will be presented with the Edinburgh Medal at the Chambers of the City of Edinburgh Council. They will give the address "Astronomy for a Better World" as part of the 2016 festival.
On behalf of the IAU, its president Peimbert says: "I am delighted that the work of the IAU in the field of development has been recognised by the award of this medal. Astronomy is an exciting and stimulating pursuit and has a large part to play in inspiring the next generation of scientists from developing countries. I hope this award will highlight this important work and encourage others to contribute."