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About UP

Prof M.G. Mes

(1905 - 1959)

In 1934 het Prof Margareta Gerarda Mes die eerste vrou geword wat as departementshoof in ’n wetenskapsfakulteit aan ’n Suid-Afrikaanse universiteit aangestel is. Dié formidabele navorser is in Nederland gebore, maar het haar BSc-graad (Plantkundeen Dierkunde) (cum laude) in 1924 aan die Transvaal Universiteitskollege (TUK) voltooi. Nadat sy haar kwalifikasie behaal het,
het sy vir ’n kort rukkie ’n onderwysposisie beklee voor sy verder in plantkunde studeer het aan die Universiteit van Utrechtin Nederland. Sy het haar PhD (cum laude) in 1930 voltooi.Terwyl sy by die Universiteit van Utrecht was, is sy vereer met ’n Internasionale Federasie-genootskap deur die Universiteit vir Vroue in Kalifornië, Verendigde State van Amerika (VSA). Tydenshaar reise in Japan en China is sy ’n pos as dosent in die Universiteit van Pretoria se Departement Plantkunde aangebied. In 1934 is sy bevorder tot professor – die tweede vrou wat in hierdie posisie by die Universiteit aangestel is – en in 1944 het sydepartementshoof geword. Mes het haar onverpoosd beywer vir die vestiging van ’n navorsingslaboratorium vir plantfisiologie by die Universiteit. Ten spyte van skeptisisme en selfs teenkanting het sy begin om geld van sakemanne, openbare maatskappye, skole en studente in te samel om ’n navorsingsinstituut vir plantefisiologie by die Universiteit te bou. Die eerste gebou van die instituut is in 1947 opgerig. In 1952 het sy die hoof van die Departement Plantfisiologie en Biochemie, sowel as die Direkteur van die Navorsingsinstituut vir Plantfisiologie, geword. Die instituut is later na haar vernoem en het as die Margareta Mes Instituut vir Plantfisiologie en Plantbiochemie bekendgestaan. Van die belangrikste navorsingsprogramme wat deur Prof Mes begin is,is simbiotiese stikstofbinding in peulplante, planthormone, saadontkieming en blomprobleme in koffieplante. Haar eenvoudige
ontdekking dat hierdie plante oorhoofs water gegee moet word en nie besproei moet word nie was van groot hulp vir diekoffiebedryf. Sy was ’n lid van die Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns, die Suid-Afrikaanse Biologiese Vereniging, die Suider-Afrikaanse Vereniging vir die Bevordering van Wetenskap, die Botaniese Vereniging van Amerika, die AmerikaanseVereniging van Plantefisioloë, die Torrey- Botaniese Klub, die Nederlandsche Botanische Vereeniging, die Deutsche Botanische Gesellschaft, die Skandinawiese Vereniging vir Plantfisiologie en die Schweizerische Botanische Geselschaft, en is verkies asdie President van die Suid-Afrikaanse Biologiese Vereniging en President van Afdeling C van die Suider-Afrikaanse Vereniging vir die Bevordering van Wetenskap. Sy het talle toekennings en pryse vir haar navorsing ontvang, waaronder die Senior CaptainScott-medalje van die Suid-Afrikaanse Biologiese Vereniging. Prof Mes was outeur of mede-outeur van 44 wetenskaplike
artikels.

 
   
In 1934 Professor Margareta Gerarda Mes became the first woman to be appointed as head of a department in a faculty of scienceat a South African university. This formidable researcher was born in The Netherlands, but completed her BSc degree (Botany and Zoology) (cum laude) at the Transvaal University College (TUC) in 1924. After graduating, she briefly took up a teaching position before embarking on further studies in botany at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. She completed her PhD (cum laude) in 1930. While at the University of Utrecht, she was awarded an International Federation fellowship by the Universityfor Women in California, United States of America (USA). During her travels in Japan and China, she was offered a position as a lecturer in the University of Pretoria’s Department of Botany. In 1934 she was promoted to professor – the second woman to beappointed at the University in this position — and in 1944 she became head of the department. Prof Mes worked untiringly for the establishment of a research laboratory for plant physiological studies at the University. Despite scepticism and even opposition,she began collecting money from businessmen, public companies, schools and students, to build a plant physiological research institute at the University. The first building of the institute was erected in 1947. In 1952, she became head of the Departmentof Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, as well as the Director of the Plant Physiological Research Institute. The institute was later named in her honor and became known as the Prof Margareta Mes Institute for Plant Physiology and Plant Biochemistry.Some of the major research programmes initiated by Prof Mes include symbiotic nitrogen fixation by legumes, plant hormones, seed germination and problems of flowering in coffee plants. Her simple discovery that these plants need overhead wateringand not irrigation was of great help to the coffee industry. She was a member of the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns, the South African Biological Society, the Southern African Association for the Advancement of Science, the BotanicalSociety of America, the American Society of Plant Physiologists, the Torrey Botanical Club, the Nederlandsche Botanische
Vereeniging, the Deutsche Botanische Gesellschaft, the Scandinavian Society for Plant Physiology and the SchweizerischeBotanische Geselschaft and was elected as President of the South African Biological Society and President of Section C of the Southern African Association for the Advancement of Science. She received many awards and prizes for her research, amongstothers the Senior Captain Scott Medal by the South African Biological Society. Prof Mes was author or co-author of more than 44 scientific articles.