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Royal society honours Wits academic Prof Zeblon Vilakazi

Press conference for the briefing on Wits HIV liver transplant. Prof Zeblon Vilakazi. Deputy Vice-chancellor of Research. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA)

Press conference for the briefing on Wits HIV liver transplant. Prof Zeblon Vilakazi. Deputy Vice-chancellor of Research. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA)

Published May 13, 2022

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Wits University’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, has been welcomed as a fellow of one of the world’s most prestigious scientific academies.

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The Royal Society from the UK announced this week that Vilakazi has been appointed as a fellow of the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence in the world.

Vilakazi is a nuclear physicist and has served as the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Wits University since January 2021. Prior to his appointment, he served as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Postgraduate Studies.

The internationally recognised nuclear physicist said he was honoured to be welcomed as a fellow.

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“This is not just an honour for me, but also for Wits University, and all those who supported me. South Africa is home to a host of incredibly talented scientists who punch above their weight in the global knowledge arena. Whilst this Fellowship acknowledges some of my achievements, more importantly, it recognises the high calibre of science and scientists based in Africa,” Vilakazi said.

Vilakazi joins the ranks of doctor and palaeontologist Robert Broom, palaeoanthropologist Phillip Vallentine Tobias, scientist Basil Schonland, physicist Frank Nabarro, and Nobel Prize-winner Aaron Klug, all of whom are also Wits University alumni.

Past fellows and foreign members of the Royal Society have included Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Dorothy Hodgkin and Stephen Hawking.

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President of the Royal Society Sir Adrian Smith said it was an honour to welcome more outstanding researchers from around the world into the Fellowship of the Royal Society.

“Through their careers so far, these researchers have helped further our understanding of human disease, biodiversity loss and the origins of the universe. I am also pleased to see so many new Fellows working in areas likely to have a transformative impact on our society over this century, from new materials and energy technologies to synthetic biology and artificial intelligence. I look forward to seeing what great things they will achieve in the years ahead,” Smith said.

The university said the Royal Society is a self-governing fellowship made up of the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists from the UK and the Commonwealth, and fellows and foreign members are elected for life through a peer review process on the basis of excellence in science.

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There are approximately 1 700 fellows and foreign members, including around 85 Nobel Laureates. Each year up to 52 fellows and up to 10 foreign members are elected from a group of around 800 candidates proposed by the existing fellowship.

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