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Obituary Professor André Goosen

19 July 1933 - 25 July 2017


Professor André Goosen

19 July 1933 - 25 July 2017

Professor André Goosen was born in Queenstown and matriculated at Queen’s College in 1949. His ambition was to become a sailor, but his mother disabused him of this notion by arranging a passage on his uncle’s fishing trawler for an extended run out of East London. By the time they returned to port, the young man had determined that lengthy spells at sea in exclusively male company was not as attractive a prospect as he had imagined.

And so it was to university, enrolling at the University of Natal (Pietermaritzburg), to complete a BSc degree in 1954, majoring in Chemistry and Physics, followed by a BSc(Hons) in Chemistry in 1955. He was awarded an MSc in 1956 followed by a PhD in 1960, with his research on the alkaloids of the Amaryllidaceae being carried out under the supervision of the doyen of natural product chemistry in South Africa, Professor Frank L. Warren.

In 1956 Goosen was appointed at the University of Natal as a Junior Lecturer, followed by Temporary Lecturer, and was promoted in 1960 to Lecturer in Organic Chemistry. While at Natal he met and later married Joan Sansbury, also a student of chemistry.

The couple spent 1963 in London with Goosen as Visiting Lecturer at the Imperial College of Science and Technology, under the tutelage of Professor Derek H. R. Barton, who was to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1969 and knighted in 1972. For his research in which he showed that the photolysis of N-iodoamides provided a general route to 𝛾-lactones, Goosen was awarded the Diploma of Imperial College. In his case a special concession was required to qualify, as the regulations then stipulated a two-year minimum residential period. He resumed his post at the University of Natal at the end of the same year and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in Organic Chemistry.

With Warren’s encouragement, Goosen applied for a post at the fledgling University of Port Elizabeth in 1964 and assumed the new Chair of Organic Chemistry at UPE in January 1965, at the age of only 32. He was destined to spend the rest of his life in Port Elizabeth, twenty-eight of these at the university.

He and the late Professor Ferdi de Wet who was appointed at the same time, along with Professor Jan du Preez two years later, set about building up a Chemistry Department from scratch on the old Bird Street campus. The task of developing curricula, starting the academic programme, building laboratories, and establishing research was a daunting one that they tackled with enthusiasm and energy. In 1979 the Chemistry Department moved into spacious well appointed facilities that they were instrumental in designing, on the new Summerstand campus. Under their guidance, the department flourished.

Goosen proved to be a highly capable administrator and was Head of Chemistry at various intervals for seventeen years in total. He furthermore served three five-year terms as Dean of the Faculty of Science in the period 1969-1990, at times concurrently with the Headship, while also carrying a full teaching load and as a FRD B-category scientist, leading a research group. He sat on numerous UPE committees and was Senate representative on the UPE Council (1990-1993).

Moreover, he was involved in the South African Chemical Institute in various capacities, locally and nationally, serving as National President in 1979-1980, and as a member of the editorial board of the South African Journal of Chemistry. He was a member of the Joint Matriculation Board for twenty-three years including stints as Chairman, and sixteen years as Chemistry Moderator for Matriculation Physical Science. He was appointed by the Committee of University Principals to the Matriculation Board in 1992-1993. He also served on advisory committees of the CSIR and South African Council for Natural Scientists, and was a member of the international advisory board of the Royal Society of Chemistry journal, Perkin Transactions 1.

Notable awards received by Goosen were the AECI Gold Medal of the South African Chemical Institute in 1975, followed by the Gold Medal in 1992 in recognition of his contribution to chemical education and research on free radical reactions.

He was a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry (London), a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, and a Honorary Life Member of the South African Chemical Institute. He was registered with the South African Council for Natural Scientists.

Aside from his stint at Imperial College, he was also a Visiting Professor at the University of Utah (USA) in 1972 at the invitation of Professor Cheves Walling, a notable figure in free radical chemistry. Later came spells as Visiting Lecturer at the University of Aberdeen (UK) in 1978, and Visiting Scientist at the Weizmann Institute (Israel) in 1985.

Goosen was an inspiring lecturer and supervisor whose energy and positivity seemed boundless. He revelled in his work and would claim, "I have never worked a day in my life!” Such was his enthusiasm for chemistry that this was quite believable. He was a productive researcher, blessed with excellent practical skills, who authored 80 research papers and supervised 34 MSc and 15 PhD students.

In his time, Goosen injected new perspectives into the South African chemistry scene. From Imperial College he brought the modern mechanistic approach to teaching organic chemistry. When he assumed the post at UPE, organic chemistry research in South Africa was largely based on natural products, the field in which he himself was schooled. However, he broke new ground, shifting his focus to physical organic chemistry, working on the chemistry of free radicals and other reactive intermediates. This move proved to be a percipient one as his career would coincide with what was arguably a golden era for physical organic chemistry. His group would make significant contributions to the chemistry of organic hypoiodites, peroxides, N-iodoamides and related species. Aside from the fundamental research, he also engaged with industry on applied problems, most notably with AECI, UCOR, Sasol and Illovo Sugar.

After he retired from university life in 1993, Goosen entered local politics, representing the Democratic Alliance as a Councillor and in various other capacities in the Port Elizabeth Transitional Local Council and subsequently in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropole Council (2000-2011).

Throughout his life he was active in various community, church and sailing circles; in his later years he became a keen bowler. He had the enviable knack of balancing work and play, performance with pleasure. Although it was never to be his occupation, he indulged his passion for sailing in his leisure time, at first with a dinghy on the Swartkops River, where he became Commodore of the Redhouse Yacht Club. Later there was Eve, a thirty-one foot keelboat that he sailed from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth and moored in the harbour at the Algoa Bay Yacht Club. Weekend sailing in the bay gave him endless pleasure, sometimes with postgraduate students roped in as crew. At home he and Joan were excellent hosts and he would be at his most affable with the company of friends and a glass of cabernet sauvignon close at hand.

Professor André Goosen was a widely respected and loved man who touched many lives in various arenas. He will be remembered for his high ethical and professional standards, his deep concern for the people he worked with, and above all his love of learning, which inspired those around him. Predeceased by his wife Joan and daughter Dalene, he is survived by their sons Raoul and Pierre.

Prepared by: Emeritus Professor Cedric W. McCleland
                        Department of Chemistry
                        Nelson Mandela University

04 August 2017