It is indeed an honour and privilege to be invited to say a few words of tribute to Philip at this time of his sad passing. I am speaking on behalf of the many fellows of the Academy spread around the country. May I begin by conveying the deepest sympathies of the President and Fellows of the South African Academy of Engineering to family, loved ones and close friends of Philip at this time of sadness. But of course it is also appropriate that at this time we not only bereave his passing but also celebrate his life and achievements.
Philip, or Taffy as he was known to so many of us, had a most distinguished career in both academia and industry. He was a graduate of UCT where he also obtained his Masters and Doctoral Degrees before spending four years at MIT undertaking advanced studies in nuclear engineering. After a stint at the Atomic Energy Board of South Africa he was Director of Metallurgy of the Chamber of Mines Research Organisation from 1966 – 1983 and it was during this time that I personally got to know him well.
After a subsequent period in industry he returned to academia, firstly from 1994 to 1999 as a Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand and then for 10 years as a Research Fellow at the Energy Research Centre of the University of Cape Town. From 2009 until his death he has served as a Research Professor at the Energy Institute of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Clearly Taffy was not someone to let the grass grow under his feet and as you will appreciate he was active right until his sudden sad passing.
Philip not only contributed to the nation as an eminent engineer but also through many social upliftment projects not least of those being Protec, a maths and science education programmes for underprivileged children. He also served as President of the SA Institution of Chemical Engineers, of the Federation of Societies of Engineers, and of the Associated Scientific and Technical Societies of SA. Moreover he served for 20 years on the Executive Committee of the SA Council for Professional Engineers, predecessor to the Engineering Council of SA.
Philip was always willing to publicly express his views on matters of concern to the engineering professions and throughout his career made many crucial interventions with the government of the day on matters relating to the engineering profession.
Internationally he was actively engaged with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and, in recent years, at the invitation of the International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences (known as CAETS), of which the South African Academy of Engineering is a member, he played a leading role on numerous international initiatives relating to energy. Until very recently he headed the Editorial Committee of the CAETS Energy Report on “Transitioning to a Lower Carbon Future”.
In recognition of his many outstanding achievements Philip received numerous awards. In 2012 he received the Conrad Geber Award as African Intellectual of the Year and in 2016 the prestigious and rarely awarded Honorary Fellowship of SAAE was bestowed on Philip in recognition of his very significant, long term contributions to the Academy and to the engineering profession in South Africa.
SAAE has lost a most respected Fellow who took great delight in sharing with others his insights and experiences in the world of science and technology, and in offering his opinions. Philip was of course very active outside the world of engineering and was indeed, as already alluded to, the very epitome of a renaissance man! He will be missed not only in South African engineering circles but internationally where he had established a reputation as a global leader in the field of energy.
May he rest in peace!