The History of the Society
At an annual congress of the South African Association of Botanists (SAAB) held in Pietermaritzburg (1978), Dr Sylvia Earle, as the plenary speaker, presented her findings from the first deep-sea dive undertaken in a submersible off the South African coast. The plenary lecture was linked to a session dedicated to phycological papers and this was perceived by the attending delegates as extremely beneficial. During the general discussion period of this session, issues were raised as to how to encourage research in, and the development of, phycology in the region. Thus the idea to form a separate Society dedicated to this cause was hatched. Despite some resistance at this forum, there seemed to be substantial support and Professor Richard Pienaar (then at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg) was given the mandate to explore this further. With help from Professor Braam Pieterse (then at the University of the Orange Free State) and Dr Jenny Buzer (then at the University of the Witwatersrand) he undertook a nationwide referendum to register the sentiment of the broader community of phycologists. The result was overwhelming support.
In the winter of 1981 an informal phycological foray was planned at Umkomaas with the idea of planning the way forward. Phycologists primarily from Wits, Durban and Pietermaritzburg attended. Some of those present include Mark Aken, Jenny Buzer, Martin Griffiths, Isao Inouye, Georgina Lambert, Shirley Meyer, Cathy Nelson, Richard Norris, Richard Pienaar, Di Sloff, Stuart Sym and Derek Watt.
Work was then done to put together a constitution that could be discussed and ratified at the first AGM of the Society. This was largely undertaken by Richard Pienaar and Richard Norris, whose previous experience proved invaluable, and modified by Braam Pieterse.
The first annual congress of the Society, called the Phycological Society of Southern Africa to encourage delegates from neighbouring states to participate, was held in Johannesburg at the University of the Witwatersrand in January 1983 just prior to SAAB at the same venue. That proved a fabulous meeting and we had two invited speakers, Mike Wynne and Bob Wilce. Stan Seagrieff made an outrageously spectacular after-dinner speech that will long be remembered by all those present.