Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns

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The Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns ("South African Academy for Science and Art") .

Also found as the SA Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns, the SA Akademie or for many years simply as Die Akademie ("The Academy").


Founding and aims

Originally entitled the De Zuid-Afrikaanse Akademie voor Taal, Letteren en Kunst ("South African Academy for Language, Literature and Art", als found in the form Zuid-Afrikaansche Akademie vir Letteren en Kunst), it was founded in 1909 to promote and give guidance in the development of the Dutch (which at the time included Afrikaans) language, literature, art, history. The name was changed to the Afrikaans Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Taal, Lettere en Kuns and eventually, as the Academy expanded to include the natural sciences as well, it became known as the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns ("South African Academy for Science and Art").

While it was at the start primarily a language society for the promotion of the Dutch language in opposition to English, it shortly afterwards shifted the focus to Afrikaans, which had been recognised as an official language in 1925 and after 1994 become one of eleven official languages of the country.

Today the Academy is an Article 21 company and a multidisciplinary organisation, encompassing a wide range of scientific and artistic fields, with its main objectives being the advancement of science, technology and the arts, as well as the promotion of Afrikaans usage and the maintenance of good linguistic standards.

It has an elected membership based on scientific, technological, artistic, economic and other achievements. It utilizes local working communities in major centres and a range of committees and commissions. The council also awards and administers some of the most prestigious awards in the scientific and cultural fields, including the Hertzog Prize for Literature (awarded for Drama every third year), as well as a range of other prizes, pennants and medals for artistic achievement in theatre and the performing and fine arts.


The Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns ("The South African Academy for Science and Arts") - originally De Zuid-Afrikaanse Akademie voor Taal, Letteren en Kunst - was founded in 1909. Its original aim was to promote the development of the Dutch language (which at that time included Afrikaans), as well as its literature, art, history and study of antiquity in South Africa, and to take the lead in these spheres. Today, the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns is a multidisciplinary organisation.

Mission and aims

The Academy's Deed of Establishment (Art. 21: 2002) defines its mission and general objectives as the advancement of science, technology and the arts, as well as the promotion of Afrikaans usage and the maintenance of good linguistic standards. It also aims to deliver a service to the community. This multidisciplinary organisation serves the interests of all South Africans and strives to uphold excellence, fairness and exemplary scientific, moral anddemocratic values.

Membership and members

Members of the Academy are elected by virtue of scientific, technological or cultural achievement. However, membership is not limited to these groups only. Prominent bankers, auditors, business leaders, doctors, lawyers, engineers, artists and others who have made their mark in their specific fields, are also elected to the Academy. Persons who wish to be considered as members, should contact the Chief Executive Officer at the address below. Membership of the Academy is indicated by the insigne, M.Akad.SA.

Council of the Academy

The Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns falls under the aegis of the Academy Council, which represents different disciplines. Organisational matters and administration of Academy affairs are centred at its permanent office in Pretoria, headed by the Chief Executive Officer. The main sources of income are membership fees, donations, royalties, interest on investments and trust funds.

Working communities, divisions and branches

Working communities of the Academy have been established in Bloemfontein, Durban, Cape Town, Eastern Cape, Pietermaritzburg, Polokwane, Potchefstroom, Pretoria, Stellenbosch, Vaal Triangle, Free State, Witwatersrand and KwaZulu-Natal. Universities in these regions are the major centres of Academy activities. The five subject divisions of the Academy are Biological Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Medicine, Engineering as well as Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

Committees and commissions

Elected and standing committees and commissions are responsible for various activities of the Academy. The commissions for language, literature, education, history and performing and visual arts have specific duties. A variety of subject and special committees perform tasks related to their respective fields and are responsible for the assessment of candidates nominated for the Academy awards. A Curatorial Body overseas the Engelenburg House Museum at the Academy's head office.

Activities of the Academy

Within the framework of its mission and objectives, the Academy continually investigates current affairs of public interest, takes a clear stand and often becomes directly involved in advisory capacity, as facilitator and in forming public opinion on issues of national interest.

The Academy has been instrumental in the recognition of Afrikaans as an official language, the founding of the FAK [Federation of Afrikaans Cultural Organisations], the establishment of the Faculties of Medicine, Dentistry and Engineering at the University of Pretoria, the adoption of the decimal system in South Africa, the National Subject Terminology Service, the Africa Institute, the Simon van der Stel Foundation, the Heraldry Bureau, the Sciences Research Council, to name but a few. The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) was founded with collaborated inputs from prominent Academy members.


In many respects, the Academy has been the point of growth for Afrikaans; it was instrumental in the genesis and development of Afrikaans as a cultural language, and the advancement of Afrikaans remains one of its key objectives. Since 1915, the Academy (in particular its Language Commission), has performed a standardising function in respect of written Afrikaans and to promote the use of Afrikaans in all its functions. The most laudable result of this work is the Afrikaanse woordelys en spelreëls [Afrikaans word list and spelling rules], of which the ninth editionwas published in 2002.

Journals and publications

Originally known as the Tydskrif vir Wetenskap en Kuns ("Journal for Science and Arts")

First published in 1960, to publish original research and review articles in the following subject fields: theology, languages, arts and culture, social, economic and educational sciences as well as book reviews, chronicles and poems. Originally founded to promote publication on the arts and Humanities specifically in Afrikaans, but now accepts articles in English, Dutch and German as well.



Speech by the Director, Jaques van der Elst,

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Since 1960 the Publications Office of the Academy has published two interdisciplinary, accredited Afrikaans vocational journals, namely the Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Natuurwetenskap en Tegnologie and the Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe/Journal of Humanities - both issued quarterly. The Academy also publishes a regular newsletter. The Academy is responsible for the publication of various Afrikaans university textbooks, for instance in Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics, and Literature, for numerous vocational dictionaries in Afrikaans, as well as publications such as the Hertzog-Annale and Christiaan de Wet-Annale.

Annual meetings and symposiums

Important activities of the Academy are the annual general meeting and symposium. At these events, researched themes of scientific and national interest are analysed and discussed in an interdisciplinary manner. Knowledgeable speakers of all disciplines are invited to present public papers. The respective workingcommunities, divisions and branches join these activities.


Several country-wide Olympiads are organised annually for learners throughout the country. The most prominent of these, the Mathematics Olympiad, has developed to such an extent that it has now been taken over by the National Foundation. The Academy is also in the process of re-organising a History Olympiad. The objectives of these Olympiads are to identify talented learners at an early age, to foster the enjoyment of specific subjects with these learners, and to stimulate interest and develop skills. Tens of thousands of learners of all population groups participate in these Olympiads. The Poort Competition was established to promote creative writing talent among high school learners.

Awards and prizes

For decades the Academy has been known for the medals of honour, prizes and medals it awards in recognition of achievements in the sciences, the humanities and the arts. Candidates are selected and recommended for awards by specialist committees. Through its award strategy the South African Academy for Science and Arts makes a major contribution towards the creation of avibrant culture of excellence in South Africa.

Among the Academy's many awards are the much sought after Hertzog-prys (Hertzog Prize), Elisabeth Eybers Beurs, the Academy Prize for translation into Afrikaans from any other language, the Louis Hiemstra-toekenning, the Eugène N. Marais Award for a debut writer, the Gustav Preller award, the Scheepers award, the Tienie Holloway medal and the C.J. Langenhoven prize, inter alia for achievements in the field of Afrikaans literature, literary science, literary criticism, linguistics and books for children.

Outstanding achievement in other specific fields of study are acknowledged by awarding prestige prizes such as the Havenga Prize and Stals Prize, and the Frans du Toit, Toon van den Heever and Totius prizes and the Captain Scott Medal.

Medals of Honour for scientific subject promotion at secondary and tertiary level are regularly awarded. The M.T. Steyn Award and N.P. van Wyk Louw Award for exceptional achievement in the natural sciences and the humanities respectively.

Eugène Marais-prys

W.A. Hofmeyr-prys


By means of these extensive activities and many other initiatives by the large number of Academy members all over the country, the Academy offers meaningful contributions to the pursuit of the natural sciences, the development of technology, the advancement of science in all its aspects and the promotion of the use and standard of Afrikaans.


The Chief Executive Officer, South African Academy for Science and Arts, 574 Ziervogel Street, Private Bag X11, ARCADIA 0007

Tel.: 012-328-5082; Fax: 012-328-5091

E-mail:; Web:


Speech by CEO Jacques van der Elst:]

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