News » Celebrating 50 years as a Research Institute

As guest editor on 50 Years of Ichthyology (1997) Paul Skelton wrote, “Fifty years is a short span of time – less than an average human life-span and barely two working life-spans.” And now, some 22 years later, we reflect on another 50 years – the current life-span of this remarkable Institute and the sequential successes upon which it has built since Margaret Smith determined to cement the legacy of biological discovery initiated by Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer’s chance discovery of an enigmatic blue fish and the ‘coelacanth man’, her husband, JLB Smith.

To some extent the story is a reflection of a country that has experienced momentous changes during the period. To survive such upheaval requires vision, tenacity and commitment.

Perhaps the most important take home message is that from its inception this institute was, and has remained, progressive within the context of the times in which it operates.

This milestone is a record of the belief in and commitment to the institute of numerous individuals over time, with threads of commonality that can be found in the strong network of research associates, the acknowledgement of the importance of science in service of society, and recognition of the need for relevance and the promotion of transformation within and outside South Africa.

Through each directorship the Institute has remained systematically progressive, providing an integrated package that combines modern science with the parallel development of infrastructure to meet the changing needs of society.

SAIAB has published a book that chronicles the Institute's history from 1969-2019. Edited by Penny Haworth and presented through the lenses of the Institute’s four directors, Margaret Smith, authored by her successor, Mike Bruton, who also writes a chapter on his own account, Paul Skelton and Angus Paterson, this book clearly articulates the challenges, opportunities, political forces and decisions made during their tenures that have resulted in SAIAB reaching its 50th birthday in fine fettle and focused on future growth and development. The authors write in their own styles, which in many ways reflect their differing perspectives, approaches and personalities, give insights into the challenges and successes of the Institute through time and provide a snapshot of the changing landscape of science in South Africa over the last 50 years. Read SAIAB 50 years - The Directors' Cut - Perspectives 1969-2019.

SAIAB has also produced a video to mark the event - click here to enjoy