On Wednesday 30 March, the Lord Provost of City of Edinburgh Council will present the prestigious Edinburgh Medal to Kevin Govender of the IAU’s Office of Astronomy for Development and to Silvia Torres-Peimbert, President of the IAU, in a special ceremony at the 2016 Edinburgh International Science Festival.
The 2016 Edinburgh Medal is being jointly awarded to Kevin Govender and the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in recognition of their wide-reaching contribution to science.
The UK’s Astronomer Royal, Lord (Martin) Rees, will open the event, following which Govender and Torres-Peimbert will discuss their work and the future of Astronomy for Development. Professor Monica Grady will propose a vote of thanks for their hard work to date .
The joint award acknowledges the creation and establishment of the Office of Astronomy for Development, which integrates the pursuit of scientific knowledge with social development for and with those most in need. Under the pioneering stewardship of Kevin Govender, the Office of Astronomy for Development, hosted at the South African Astronomical Observatory in partnership with the National Research Foundation and the South African Department of Science and Technology, has successfully harnessed astronomy in the service of global education and capacity building.
The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together more than 10 000 professional astronomers from almost 100 countries. Its mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. The IAU also serves as the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and the surface features on them. Founded in 1919, the IAU is the world's largest professional body for astronomers.
The IAU established the Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) in partnership with the South African National Research Foundation (NRF), with support from the South African Department of Science and Technology. The OAD was officially opened by Minister Naledi Pandor on 16 April 2011 at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) in Cape Town, South Africa. It is tasked with the implementation of the IAU Strategic Plan including the establishment of regional offices and three astronomy-for-development “Task Forces”: (i) Universities and Research; (ii) Children and Schools; and (iii) Public Outreach.
Kevin began work at the OAD in 2011 as its first Director. During his previous position as the Manager of the Southern African Large Telescope’s Collateral Benefits Programme at the South African Astronomical Observatory he worked extensively, especially within the African continent, in the area of “astronomy for development”. He chaired the Developing Astronomy Globally Cornerstone Project of the International Year of Astronomy in 2009 and was involved in the development of the IAU Strategic Plan. Coming from an experimental nuclear physics background and with experience from many community development initiatives in post-apartheid South Africa, Kevin was previously named one of the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans, and received the National Science and Technology Forum’s Science Communicator award in 2011.
Edinburgh International Science Festival
Edinburgh International Science Festival, founded in 1989, is an educational charity that aims to inspire people of all ages and backgrounds to discover the world around them. The organisation is best known for organising Edinburgh’s annual Science Festival, the world’s first science festival and still one of Europe’s largest. The two-week festival includes a diverse programme of innovative events. This year’s Festival runs from 26 March to 10 April 2016.
The organisation has a strong focus on education and runs a touring programme that visits schools around Scotland throughout the year. Within a large-scale programme of international work, it regularly presents events overseas and is currently the Major Programming Partner of the annual Abu Dhabi Science Festival.
The Edinburgh Medal
The Edinburgh Medal is a prestigious award given each year to men and women of science and technology whose professional achievements are judged to have made a significant contribution to the understanding and well-being of humanity.
Made of Sterling silver, the medal is produced by Edinburgh firm Alexander Kirkwood & Son and features the original Edinburgh International Science Festival logo - a juggler performing with different symbols of science in the air.
Past recipients of the Edinburgh Medal:
1989 Professor Abdus Salam
1990 Professor Stephen J Gould
1991 Professor Jane Goodall
1992 Professor Heinz Wolff
1993 Professor Wangari Maathai
1994 Professor Manuel Pattarroyo
1995 Sir John Crofton
1996 Professor Richard Levins
1997 Professor Amartya Sen
1998 Sir David Attenborough
1999 Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell
2000 Professor Lynn Margulis
2001 Sir John Sultan
2002 Lise Kingo
2003 Professor Wang Sung
2004 Professor Steven Rose
2005 Professor Colin Blakemore
2006 Professor James Lovelock
2007 Dr Richard Horton
2008 Professor Chris Rapley CBE
2009 Professor John Beckwith
2010 Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys
2011 Professor Carl Djerassi
2012 Dr James Hansen
2013 Professor Peter Higgs/Cern
2014 Prof Mary Abukutsa-Onyango
2015 Mary Midgley
 Tickets for the event can be booked online at www.sciencefestival.co.uk, by phone 0844 557 2686 or in person at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Office, 180 High Street, Edinburgh.
IAU Office of Astronomy for Development
Tel: +27 21 460 9350
Cell: +27 82 487 8466
Lars Lindberg Christensen
IAU Press Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6761
Cell: +49 173 3872 621