Prof. Jan van der Merwe

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Prof. Johannes Hendrik van der Merwe

Also Known As: "Jan"
Birthplace: Humpata, Namibe Province, Angola
Immediate Family:

Son of Johannes Marthinus Van der Merwe and Catharina Margaretha van der Merwe, b5c3d7e5f1g6h5i2
Husband of Wilhelmina ''Minnie'' van der Merwe

Occupation: Wetenskaplike
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Prof. Jan van der Merwe

Prof. Jan van der Merwe was one of the founders of epitaxial film growth; his work laid the foundation for semiconductor technology and as a result contributed significantly to the establishment of the information age in the 21st century.


Johannes Hendrik van der Merwe is in Angola gebore as afstammeling van die Dorslandtrekkers. Toe hy sewe jaar oud was het sy ouers egter per ossewa na Suidwes-Afrika getrek. Die Van der Merwe’s het naby die huidige Outjo gaan woon waar Van der Merwe aanvanklik skoolgegaan het. Daarna het hulle na Gobabis en weer terug na Otjiwarongo getrek waar Van der Merwe vir die eerste keer in ’n ordentlike laerskool was. Hy is na Windhoek vir hoërskoolopleiding waar hy in die koshuis was.

In 1972 Prof. Verleger was succeded by Prof. J.H. van der Merwe. He was born in 1922 in Humpata, Angola. After matriculating at the Windhoek High School in 1940 he was awarded the degrees BSc (1943) and MSc (1945) at the University of Stellenbosch, both with distinction.

In 1946 he was appointed junior lecturer at the University of Pretoria but a year later he accepted an appointment at the C.S.I.R. At the end of 1947 he left to study at the University of Bristol where he was awarded a DPhil degree in 1950. In his doctorate he laid the foundations of the theory epitaxy for which he eventually became world-famous for. He obtained the MSc degree in Mathematics in 1955 at the University of Pretoria. In 1967 he received the Havenga prize from the South African Academy for Science and Art.

With the establishment of the Institute of Microstructures at the University he became its first Director and later Deputy Director. He is seen as a world-renowned authority in the field of epitaxy. He also received the E.W. Muller award from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1963 and the De Beers Gold Medal for Physics in 1964.

In 1978 Prof. van der Merwe retired as Head of the Department in order to pay more attention to research and the teaching of post-graduate students. He was awarded three honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Pretoria, UNISA and the University of Port Elizabeth. In 1990 he was appointed as Professor extraordinaire at UNISA. He obtained several gold medals as well as an A-grading for research from the F.R.D. He was appointed honorary professor of Physics at the University of Pretoria.

Source: Picture frame at University of Pretoria Physics Department Building

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Prof. Jan van der Merwe's Timeline

February 28, 1922
Humpata, Namibe Province, Angola