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Basil Schonland (1896 - 1972)

The Order of Mapungubwe in

Basil Schonland (1896 - 1972) Awarded for:
Outstanding achievements as a physicist and as founding President of the CSIR.

Profile of Basil Schonland

Physicist Basil Schonland, described as ‘South Africa’s scientist of the twentieth century’, made his name in the early part of the last century by unraveling the mysteries of lightning.

Born and reared in Grahamstown, Schonland was a graduate of Rhodes and Cambridge universities. He later became Chancellor of Rhodes University. He did sterling scientific work during the Second World War and was later appointed by Prime Minister Jan Smuts as founding President of the CSIR (1945-1950).

Sir Basil Schonland became Director (1958-1961) of the UK’s atomic energy research establishment at Harwell. He established his own research institute, the Bernard Price Institute of Geophysical Research, at the University of the Witwatersrand and played a key role in South Africa’s independent development of the radar during the war.

Sir Basil Schonland remains a guiding light for the innovative spirit of a new South Africa.