Alumni - Pieter Stoker

Prof Pieter Stoker: exploring the frontiers of science

Prof Pieter Stoker is an excellent example of a Potchefstroom local who has earned international recognition for himself and his department.

He established a research facility in cosmic rays and nuclear physics in the Department of Physics of the former Potchefstroom University for CHE in 1953. It is known today as the North-West University’s Centre for Space Research. Its success can be ascribed to the exceptional enthusiasm and leadership with which Prof Stoker trained and inspired two generations of astrophysicists.

As an international leader, he was the first of three members of the Centre for Space Research to receive an A rating for research from the National Research Foundation (NRF).

Prof Stoker was also head of the Physics Department for 36 years and served as Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences for two terms. Under his management, Natural Sciences gave rise to a new faculty, Engineering.

He also played a leading role in establishing the former School for Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Technology Education. He firmly believed that the training of teachers for the secondary phase (currently FET) should not be left only to educationalists, and made sure that specialists were on hand to present the content part.

Prof Stoker has been a member of various professional societies, including the South African Academy for Science and Arts, the Royal Astronomical Society and the Academy of Science of South Africa.

His work received national and international recognition. He is the proud recipient of awards such as the Havenga Prize for Physics, a gold medal of the South African Society for the Advancement of Science and the De Beers gold medal of the South African Institute of Physics, and is a Fellow of the International Geophysical Year.

He chaired the NWU’s Convocation for a period of three years, and has been the Research Professor Emeritus in Physics since 1992.

He obtained a BSc degree from the former Potchefstroom University; a Phd from the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam and MSc degree in Physics from the University of Cape Town.

Prof Stokers’ continuing contributions and influence are evident from the fact that since his formal retirement in 1990 he has produced 34 publications in international scientific journals.