History of PSSA

History of PSSA

PSSA logo

The Physiology and Biochemistry Society of Southern Africa held its first meeting in Johannesburg on 10 – 11 September 1971:

First meeting in 1971

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Professor Clive Rosendorff (Wits) (front row, fourth from the left) was the Chairman and Professor Pieter Pretorius (Potchefstroom)(front row, last from the left) was the the Vice-Chairman. Prof Nerina Savage (front row, fifth from the left) from the Department of Physiological Chemistry, University of the Witwatersrand, was the Secretary/Treasurer.

In 1974 the first joint meeting was held with the South African Pharmacology Society. An independent South African Biochemistry Society was founded in the same year, which started organising its own meetings from 1975.

The Physiology Society of Southern Africa (PSSA) continued to hold joint meetings with the South African Pharmacology Society till 1987.

The Physiologists who were the “leading lights” of the Society during these first 15 years of the Society’s history were, particularly:

  • Prof Clive Rosendorff (University of the Witwatersrand),
  • Prof Archie Sloan (University of Cape Town),
  • Prof Pieter Pretorius (University of Potchefstroom),
  • Prof Bern Meyer (University of Pretoria) and
  • Prof Cyril Wyndham (Human Sciences Laboratory of the Chamber of Mines Research Organisation)

They were joined during the 1980’s by

  • Prof Peter Wright (General Physiology, University of the Witwatersrand),
  • Prof Peter Belonje (University of Cape Town),
  • Prof Duncan Mitchell (Medical Physiology, University of the Witwatersrand), and
  • Prof Johann Hattingh (General Physiology, University of the Witwatersrand).

Up until 1985 the convenor of the next congress was always also the Chairman of the Society, a tradition that has been retained to the present by the annual appointment the joint position of “Convenor of the next Congress/Vice-President of the Society” (See the Council of the PSSA). In 1985 the first “President” to be elected for a 3 year term was Prof Peter Belonje (Department of Physiology, University of Cape Town).

The Wyndham Prize Competition for the best presentation by a young researcher at the Annual Congress of the PSSA was instituted in 1985 (and first awarded in 1986). This competition constitutes one of the highlights of the current PSSA congresses. It offers Physiology Departments in Southern Africa an opportunity to put the success of their post-graduate programmes on display, while also giving young researchers their first experience of presenting and defending their work in front of a supportive, but competitive, international audience. It also affords young researchers their first opportunity to compare, and discuss, their work with those of their peers at other universities.

The PSSA logo, adopted in 1990, was designed by Johan Koeslag. It depicts Michelangelo’s Adam receiving the spark of life from the Almighty in Africa. The symbolism is two fold: physiology is the study of that spark of life, and, for humanity, that spark was almost certainly conferred on the family, Hominidae, as well as on its only surviving species, Homo sapiens, in Africa, possibly Southern Africa.

The Physiologists who were and are the “leading lights” of the Society during the last 15 years of the Society’s history were, particularly:

Prof Amanda Lochner (Medical Physiology, Stellenbosch University)

Prof Kathy Myburgh (Physiology, Stellenbosch University)

Prof Cephas Tagumirwa Musabayane (Physiology, University of KwaZulu Natal)

Prof Dirk Van Papendorp (Physiology, University of Pretoria)

Today the society has positioned itself as one of the key societies in the scientific landscape of South Africa. It embraces sister societies and associated activities, such as those of Biochemistry, Microscopy, Anatomy and Molecular biology.

Presidents of the Society

1985 – 1988 Prof Peter Belonje Physiology, University of Cape Town
1988 – 1991 Prof Duncan Mitchell Physiology, University of the Witwatersrand
1991 – 1992  Prof Gerhard van der Horst  Physiology, University of the Western Cape
1992 – 1994  Dr Roger Stewart  SA Medical Research Council
1994 – 1997 Prof Gerhard van der Horst Physiology, University of the Western Cape
1997 – 2001 Prof Amanda Lochner Medical Physiology, University of Stellenbosch
2001 – 2004  Prof Johan Koeslag Medical Physiology, University of Stellenbosch
2004 – 2010  Prof Kathy Myburgh Physiological Sciences, University of Stellenbosch
2010 – 2013 Prof Kennedy Erlwanger Physiology University of the Witwaterstrand
2013- Prof Faadiel Essop   Physiological Sciences, University of Stellenbosch