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About UP

Prof J.A.J. Meester

(1931 - 1994)

In ’n huldeblyk aan Prof Jurgens Anthonie Janse Meester – of Waldo, soos hy bekendgestaanhet – het sy lewenslange vriend, Prof CK Brain, die volgende geskryf: ”...my mees blywende indruk van Waldo was sy deursigtige eerlikheid. Hy het gesê dat jy net twee ere dinge virj ou reis deur die lewe nodig het: ’n klein bietjie eerlikheid en styl. Sy styl was macho en het herinner aan Ernest Hemingway, terwyl sy eerlikheid duidelik was in alles wat hy gedoen het.” Meester was ’n professor in die Departement Dierkunde en Entomologie aan die Universiteit van Pretoria en stigter van die Soogdiernavorsingseenheid, voorloper van dieSoogdiernavorsingsinstituut. UP het ’n MSc-graad (Dierkunde) aan Prof Meester toegeken in 1953. Dit was ook die jaar waarin hy as kurator van soogdiere by die Transvaal-museumaangestel is. In 1956 het hy sy MSc-graad aan die Universiteit van Michigan verwerf, en teruggekeer om sy doktorsgraad in 1961 aan UP te voltooi. In hierdie tyd het hy sy navorsing op die sistematiese hersiening van die skeerbekmuis-genusCrocidura in suidelike Afrika toegespits. In 1963 is hy as direkteur van die Kaffrariese Museum in King William’s Town, wat ’n uitgebreide soogdierversameling gehad het, aangestel. Hy het net vir ’n kort rukkie in King William’s Town gebly voor hy asdosent in dierkunde na UP teruggekeer het. Hier het hy die Soogdiernavorsingseenheid gestig. In 1972 het hy ’n posisie op
die Pietermaritzburg-kampus van die Universiteit van Natal aanvaar, waar hy hoof van die Departement Dierkunde geword het,’n posisie wat hy vir agt jaar beklee het. Sy laaste pos voor sy aftrede in 1991 was as hoof van die Departement Biologiese Wetenskappe op die Durban-kampus van die Universiteit van Natal. Ná sy aftrede het hy as ’n Mede-Direkteur oor navorsingby die Natalse Haairaad gewerk, alhoewel dit duidelik was dat sy hoofnavorsingsbelangstelling steeds by soogdiere gelê het. Sy navorsing het geneig om museum-styl, versameling-gebaseerde taksonomie en sistematiek te wees. Hy het op verskeierade gedien, waaronder voorsitter van die Natal-museum in Pietermaritzburg en die Natuurwetenskapmuseum in Durban. Om erkenning te gee aan al sy prestasie het die Universiteit van Natal sy onderrigmuseum in die biologiese departement na homvernoem en die Natuurwetenskapmuseum het dieselfde met sy biblioteek gedoen. Prof Meester het talle toekennings vir sy bydrae tot soogdiernavorsing ontvang. Hy is onder andere as erenavorsingsgenoot van die Smithsonian Instituut in Washington,die Transvaal-museum en die Durbanse Natuurlike Museum verkies. Kort voor sy dood is hy deur die Dierkundevereniging van Suidelike Afrika, waarvan hy ’n voormalige President was, vereer. Hy het die vereniging se goue medalje vir n uitnemendebydra tot dierkunde ontvang. Prof Meester was outeur of mede-outeur van meer as 150 wetenskaplike publikasies, waaronder The Mammals of Africa: an identification manual, gepubliseer deur Smithsonian Institution Press, en Classification of SouthernAfrican Mammals. Hy en sy mede-outeurs het die Universiteitsboekprys vir laasgenoemde publikasie ontvang.

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In a tribute to Prof Jurgens Anthonie Janse Meester — or Waldo, as he was fondly known — his life-long friend, Prof CK Brain,wrote the following: “… my most abiding impression of Waldo was his transparent honesty. He used to say that one needed two things for one’s passage through life: a modicum of honesty and style. His style was a macho one, reminiscent of Ernest Hemmingway, while his honesty shone through everything he did.” Meester was a professor in the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the University of Pretoria (UP) and founder of the Mammal Research Unit, forerunner of the Mammal ResearchInstitute. Prof Meester was awarded an MSc degree (Zoology) by UP in 1953. This was also the year in which he was appointed
as curator of mammals at the Transvaal Museum. In 1956, he obtained his MSc degree from the University of Michigan, returningto complete his doctorate at UP in 1961. During this time he focused his research on the systematic revision of the shrew genus Crocidura in southern Africa. In 1963 he was appointed director of the Kaffrarian Museum in King William’s Town, which boastedan extensive mammal collection. Prof Meester remained in King William’s Town for only a brief period before returning to UP as a lecturer in zoology. Here he started the Mammal Research Unit. In 1972, he accepted a position at the University of Natal’sPietermaritzburg campus where he became head of the Department of Zoology, a position he retained for eight years. His last
post before retirement in 1991 was as head of the Department of Biological Sciences at the Durban campus of the University ofNatal. Subsequent to his retirement, he worked as an associate director of research at the Natal Sharks Board, though it was clear that his main research interest remained mammals. His research tended to be museum-style, collection-based taxonomyand systematics. He served on various boards, including as chairman of the Natal Museum in Pietermaritzburg and the Natural Science Museum in Durban. In honour of his many achievements, the University of Natal named its teaching museum in thebiological department and the Natural Science Museum named its library after him. Prof Meester received many accolades for his contribution to mammal research. Amongst others, he was elected as an honorary research associate of the SmithsonianInstitute in Washington, the Transvaal Museum and the Durban Natural Museum. Shortly before his death, he was honoured by the Zoological Society of Southern Africa, of which he was a past President. He received its gold medal for exceptionalcontributions to zoology. Prof Meester was author or co-author of more than 150 scientific publications including The Mammals of Africa: an identification manual published by the Smithsonian Institution Press, andClassification of Southern African Mammals. The latter won him and his co-authors the University Book Prize.