Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Prof. Doug Rawlings, 1952-2020

I have just received this sad news from Dr. Anna Kaksonen, of CSIRO, Australia:
It is with great sadness that I’m writing to let you know that a long-standing and deeply respected member of our Biohydrometallurgy Community, Prof. Doug Rawlings, has passed away.
Doug finished his PhD in Microbiology in Rhodes University in 1975 and received DSc in microbiology, plasmid biology from University of Stellenbosch in 2014. Doug specialised in the biology of biomining microorganisms. Some of the first genes to be cloned and the first two genes to be sequenced in South Africa came from the work of his laboratory. Doug received several awards, including PanLabs Awards (Society for Industrial Microbiology, USA), the Havenga Prize (SA Academy for Science and Arts) and the Stellenbosch University Rector’s Award for Excellence in Research.
 Doug served as a Professor of Microbiology at the University of Cape Town 1982-1998 and as a Professor and Chair of Microbiology at the University of Stellenbosch 1998-2020. Most recently he also served at the University of Stellenbosch as the Deputy and Acting Dean in the Faculty of Science. Doug also carried a substantial load of committee work. He served for 17 years on the Council of the Royal Society of South Africa, 7 years as its secretary and 2004-2006 as the president. He also served several terms on the Council of the South African Society for Microbiology and was the Academic Coordinator of the Claude Leon Foundation post-doctoral bursary scheme. He was elected a Founder Member of the Academy of Science of South Africa and was a finalist for the Lifetime Achievement Award of the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) (2006). He was appointed as an Honorary Professor at the University of Cape Town (1998-2003) and a Guest Professor of Central South University, Changsha, China (2008-2013). Doug was also a long-standing member of the International Scientific Committee of the International Biohydrometallurgy Symposium (IBS) and more recently member of the IBS Honorary Committee.
Doug was a very approachable person and my greatest memory of him is visiting his straw-roofed home, University of Stellenbosch and a vineyard in the region together with some of my CSIRO colleagues in conjunction with one of the mining biotechnology conferences organised in Cape Town.
 Doug will be sadly missed. Our deepest sympathies are extended to his family.


  1. That’s really sad news. I really enjoyed papers by Prof Rawlings- they got geologists interested in this space! Thoughts go to his family.
    Anita Parbhakar-Fox, University of Queensland, Australia

  2. Doug will be sorely missed. He made an enormous contribution to the field of biohydrometallurgy. His death comes as a shock.
    Jacques Eksteen, Curtin University & Future Battery Industries CRC

  3. And more sad news this morning of the death of Prof. Henry Ehrlich, pioneer in geomicrobiology and a long-standing member of the International Scientific Committee of the International Biohydrometallurgy Symposium (IBS) and more recently member of the IBS Honorary Committee.

  4. Dear Colleagues,
    These days are being very hard in terms of loosing important and beloved people. Let me send you all my deepest condolences for these two memorable scientists passed away. Ana especial thanks for keeping us informed and if you have the opportunity, please send my personal regards to their families.

    I think that next IBS meeting will be a good opportunity to honor Doug and Henry as important pillars of the IBS network in the world.

    My very best wishes to all of you and keep safe during this critical times

    Pilar Parada, General Manager, Fraunhofer Chile Research

  5. Great sadness to learn about Doug Rawlings and Henry Ehrlich passing away in the last few days. Both great scientists and excellent friends will always be in our memories. No doubt will be greatly missed in our international Biohydrometallurgy Community. My deep condolences to their families.

    Carlos A. Jerez, Universidad de Chile

  6. Thank you Anna and Sabine for informing us of Henry Ehrlich’s passing. Jim and I knew Henry well having met him in the early to mid-1970s. At my request Henry served as my external advisor/examiner for my PhD thesis from the University of Texas at Dallas in 1981. Henry and I co-edited the book, Microbial Mineral Recovery, which was published in 1990. On a more personal note we exchanged holiday greetings every Christmas. Jim and I were ardent admirers of Henry and will always remember him for his passion of geomicrobiology and his very substantial contributions to the field.

    With regards, Corale
    Corale L. Brierley, Vice-President, U.S. National Academy of Engineering

  7. I am deeply moved about these two very sad news we received this week. What a loss for the Biohydrometallurgy community! One of the first scientific papers I had read was written by Dr. Erlich, at that time I was just an enthusiastic undergraduate student. After a while, I was presented to Dr. Rawlings' papers. I have no doubt they were pillars for this scientific field. The pieces of knowledge they shared were not precious just to me but for all. I will remember then forever. My condolences to their families and friends.
    Sincerely, Monica Teixeira
    Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto, Brazil

  8. I did my PhD with Doug and Dave Woods, characterising genes of what was then known as Thiobacillus ferrooxidans, finishing in about 1988. I remained at UCT (but moved wholly into human/medical genetics); while Doug moved on to our sibling institution, University of Stellenbosch - in the Cape Winelands, where he continued with his stellar work. I thought I'd write since I recall the names of some of you writing (in amongst the refs I used in my PhD) - including the remarkable Henry Ehrlich. I recall Doug being a remarkable gentleman - 'upright' as another colleague said. My warm regards to you all in the world of biohydrometallurgy.

    Raj Ramesar
    Professor of Human Genetics and Pathology
    Institute of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine
    University of Cape Town and Affiliated Hospitals

  9. Highly respected old colleague - would be dearly missed. RIP Doug
    Leon Lorenzen, Lorenzen Consultants and Mintrex, Australia


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