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Science and technology in South Africa

Article taken from Wikipedia

The first significant work in astronomy in South Africa was performed by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille between 1751 and 1753, culminating in the measurement of the arc of the southern meridian and a catalog of almost 10 000 southern stars, later published as Coelum Australe Stelliferum.[1][2]

The Royal Observatory was established at the Cape of Good Hope in 1820 and opened in 1829.[3] Today, with the main observing site having moved from the Cape of Good Hope to a higher site near Sutherland, it is host to the Southern African Large Telescope as well as numerous other South African and international telescopes.

Notable astronomers who have worked in the country include John Herschel who published Results of astronomical observations made during the years 1834, 5, 6, 7, 8, at the Cape of Good Hope in 1847[4] and David Gill whose work include the Cape Photographic Durchmusterung.

The Karoo Array Telescope (or MeerKAT) is under construction as a pathfinder for the $2 billion Square Kilometer Array (SKA) project, which will be split between sites in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. South African students and young professionals are involved in the South African SEDS, Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.


Being rich in coal, South Africa has some of the largest coal-fired power stations in the world.

In 1955 Sasol opened the first commercial Coal liquefaction plant.[5][6][7]

Commercialization of copper indium gallium sulphur selenide (CIGSSE) thin film solar cell technology was pioneered by Professor Vivian Alberts at the University of Johannesburg.[8]

The South African Solar Challenge is held bi-annually over a distance of 2,500 miles (4,000 km).

As of 2011 the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station is the only commercial nuclear energy station on the African continent.

Kimberley, was the first city in the Southern Hemisphere and in Africa to have electric street lights – first lit on 1 September 1882 .[9]


South African companies hold a considerable number of high value patents related to mining.[10] 10% of the gross domestic product (GDP) of South Africa is generated by mining companies such as De BeersAnglo American and others. They also produce over 50,000 jobs nationally. Mafube Coal Mine near Middelburg, Mpumalanga is one of the largest and is operated by Anglo Coal, a division of Anglo American. Since grassroots stages in September 2004, this project’s estimated net worth is at ZAR$16 Billion Africa Mining IQ lists along with project history.

BHP, one of the foremost mining companies in South Africa as well as SasolXstrata and PetroSA are also in large-scale operations.

Nuclear weapons programme

During the 1960s and 1980s South Africa had been pursuing research into the development of nuclear weapons as well as biological and chemical weapons. South Africa was able to acquire Uranium from native ore deposits, and used aerodynamic nozzle enrichment techniques to produce weapons-grade Uranium. Six bombs were constructed, with one still under construction before the termination of its nuclear weapons programme. It is alleged that South Africa had been collaborating with Israel to develop nuclear weapons and that it possibly detonated one of its weapons over the Indian Ocean in a nuclear weapons test. South Africa dismantled its nuclear weapons programme in 1989, the first nation in the world to do so, and became a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1991.[11]

South Africa continues to use its surplus of Uranium as part of its nuclear energy programme, supplying the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station and SAFARI-1 research reactors.

Important advances made in South Africa

South Africa was ranked 61st in the Global Innovation Index in 2021, up from 63rd in 2019.[14][15][16][17]

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