NWU legend Prof Simon Taole joined the NWU 38 years ago.

While the NWU’s physics track record is not nearly as old, its humble beginnings have also grown into the stuff of legends.


The two leading figures of the university are physicists by training, and both owe their love of the discipline to another legend, Prof Simon Taole. He taught physics to NWU Council chairperson Dr Bismark Tyobeka and to vice-chancellor Prof Dan Kgwadi.


 “It’s an honour for me to have taught these two individuals during their undergraduate level. I am very proud to have contributed to their success,” says Simon.


He started the Physics department at the then University of Bophuthatswana in June 1980. There were only 23 students and until the arrival of Prof Lesole Gadinabokao in 1981, Simon was the only lecturer in the department.


Portraits recognise ‘founding fathers’


On entering the boardroom of what is now known as the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, you will notice two life-size portraits of Simon and Lesole. This is in recognition of their contribution as founder members of the former version of the faculty in 2011.


Today, Simon is still part of the faculty and teaches a module on Understanding the World. He also teaches third-year physics and does some honours supervision.


Deep roots in physics


Simon, who was once the dean of the former faculty, says he is very proud to have been instrumental in organising the first-ever annual South African Institute of Physics conference at the former University of North West. This was also a first for a historically black institution.


Originally from Lesotho, Simon has a BSc and an MSc from universities in the United Kingdom and a PhD in physics from Ottawa University in Canada.


He has previously lectured at the University of Lesotho and University of Botswana, and then joined the NWU 38 years ago.


Centuries have passed after Newton saw an apple dropping from a tree, and it is almost four decades since Simon set foot in Mahikeng. After all these years he is still doing what he loves: teaching physics.




Physics then and now: comparing apples and pears


Physics has come a long way in the three centuries since an apple supposedly fell from a tree and onto the head of Isaac Newton.