JG van der Wath 1968


Dr JG van der Wath was born in Ladybrand, O.F.S. on August 25th, 1907. He was educated at Ficksburg and matriculated at the age of sixteen. Upon leaving school he joined the public service, entering the then Native Affairs Department. In 1930 he enrolled as a student at the University of Pretoria reading Veterinary Science. The degree of B.V.Sc. was conferred on him at the end of 1934 after which he accepted the post of State Veterinarian in the Alleton Laboratory, Pietermaritzburg.

In 1936 he became research officer at Onderstepoort in the Divisions of Pathology and Physiology, where, together with Dr P. Quin, then Head of Onderstepoort, he did important research on bacterial action in the rumen of cud chewing mammals. During this time, he was also appointed lecturer in Physiology at Onderstepoort.

Dr Van der Wath's research and his thesis, "Studies on the alimentary tract of the Merino sheep with special reference to the role of the ruminal microfauna and flora", led to a D.V.Sc. degree at the University of Pretoria in 1942.

Dr Van der Wath's love for the soil, however, made him decide to go farming but his interest in academic and research work did not fade as is witnessed by his membership of the Council of the University of Pretoria.

A devout farmer and son of the soil, his interest in the South African Wool Industry has been of incalculable value to producers and manufacturers alike. In 1960 he became chairman of the South African Wool Board and chairman of the I.W.S. for that year.

In 1962, Dr. Van der Wath was appointed chairman of the Board of Control of SAWTRI in which capacity he served until August 1st, 1966, when this body was dissolved and SAWTRI became a fully-fledged Institute of the C.S.I.R. During this time he became chairman of the Veterinary Diseases Fund jointly supported by the Meat, Milk and Wool Boards.

In 1965 he was elected chairman of the S.A. Wool Commission, the body responsible for the maintenance and implementation of the reserve price scheme for wool in South Africa.

For the past five years Dr Van der Wath has been Vice-chairman of the International Wool Secretariat contributing much to research on wool at international level. His firm enthusiasm and steadfastness on matters concerning wool, have earned him national and international respect.

Dr Van der Wath has a wide interest in the advancement of wool textile research. On overseas visits he invariably concerns himself with every possible advance made by research bodies and in this manner he has made positive contributions towards the guidance of wool research in South Africa along professional lines.

Dr Van der Wath is currently concerned with· the promotion and development of the wool industry in neighbouring countries such as Lesotho.

In spite of his wide responsibilities to the wool industry, Dr Van der Wath still finds time to interest himself in the economic development of our country. This is witnessed by the fact that he is director of a number of important financial bodies.

Dr Van der Wath has also represented the constituency Ermelo in the Provincial Council.

Port Elizabeth University is the only South African University to offer a degree and diploma in Textile Technology. It is fitting, at the first ceremony in which we confer an Honorary Doctorate, that in view of his outstanding services, the degree of Philosophiae Doctor Honoris Causa be awarded to Dr Van der Wath.