S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Van Drimmelen, Professor Govert Cornelis (veterinary science)

Born: 27 September 1911, Zeerust, South Africa.
Died: 17 July 2003, Pretoria, South Africa.
Professor Govert Cornelis Van Drimmelen

Govert Cornelis van Drimmelen was the eldest son of Reverend Pieter van Drimmelen, a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church, and his wife Maria Garstmann. Following the death of his father during the great influenza pandemic in 1919 the family returned to the Netherlands, where Govert received his early schooling. He returned to South Africa in 1921 and matriculated in Pretoria in 1928. The next year he enrolled as a student at the Transvaal University College (from 1930 the University of Pretoria) and qualified as Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc) in 1933. In December of that year he was appointed Government Veterinary Officer and during the next 12 years served at the Allerton Veterinary Laboratory near Pietermaritzburg, at Umtata (1934), Ermelo (1936) and Bloemfontein (1938) in the fight against various stock diseases. While in Bloemfontein he also lectured at the Glen Agricultural College near the city. In 1947 he was awarded the doctoral degree in veterinary science (DVSc) for his thesis on artificial insemination. His work on this topic was later published as a supplement to the Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research (1951) under the title "Artificial Insemination of Birds by the Intraperitoneal Route: A Study in Sex Physiology of Pigeons and Fowls".

In 1946 van Drimmelen was transferred to a research post in microbiology at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Research Institute and from 1950 also lectured part-time in bacteriology and mycology at the University of Pretoria. In 1952 the World Health Organization (WHO) appointed him as representative for brucellosis in Africa south of the Sahara. This appointment recognised his extensive research on brucellosis, which continued to about 1960. His work led to considerable improvements in the technology for the preparation of a brucellosis vaccine and the resulting publications included "A rapid test for the differential diagnosis of infected and vaccinated bovine reactors to the serum agglutination test for brucellosis" (South African Journal of Science, 1950), "The brucella ring test for milk of individual cows and its value for determining their status of infection" (Journal of Veterinary Research, 1951), "The keeping quality of freeze-dried Brucella abortus strain 19 vaccine" (with H.S. Steyn, Journal of General Microbiology, 1958), "Bacteriophage typing applied to strains of Brucella organisms" (Nature, 1959), "Control of brucellosis in sheep and goats by means of vaccination" (Journal of the South African Veterinary Medical Association, 1960), and "Recent developments in the epidemiology of Brucellosis in South Africa " (Annales de la Societe Belge de Medecine Tropicale, 1961).

In 1958 van Drimmelen was promoted to part-time associate professor in bacteriological and mycological diseases at the University of Pretoria. In 1964 he was invited to deliver a series of lectures on tropical diseases at the veterinary faculty of the Free University of West Berlin - which he did in German. Meanwhile he was promoted to Senior Research Officer in charge of the Bacteriological Division at Onderstepoort in 1962. That same year he represented sub-Saharan Africa at the WHO meeting in Geneval, where he delivered five papers on his research. His spare time was devoted to the affairs of the Southern Africa Association for the Advancement of Science (S2A3), the National Veld Trust, and the South African Biological Society. He served as President of S2A3 in 1963/4, and in 1965 was awarded the South Africa Medal (Gold) in recognition of his sustained contributions to research in veterinary science. He continued serving as a member of the association's council until a few months before his death. In 1969 he was awarded the Senior Captain Scott Medal of the South African Biological Society.

During the nineteen-sixties he organised several meetings to establish a hands-on museum of modern science in Pretoria. Two plots in Skinner Street were donated to the movement by the City Council and with the help of sponsors the Didacta building was erected. A hands-on museum was maintained there for many years.

In 1966 van Drimmelen was appointed Agricultural Counsellor (Scientific) to the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C., and took up his duties on 1 June. Upon his return to South Africa in 1972 he became Director of Diagnostic Services at the headquarters of the Division of Veterinary Field Services in Pretoria. He retired in February 1975, but remained active in various scientific and cultural societies until his death.

In 1936 van Drimmelen married Johanna Maria (Hanna) Gutter, with whom he had two sons and three daughters.

List of sources:

Bigalkel, R.D. In memoriam: Govert Cornelis van Drimmelen. Vetnews, December 2003, pp. 30-31.

Google Scholar, at http://scholar.google.co.za/ Publications by GC van Drimmelen.

Notes and News: Professor G.C. van Drimmelen. South African Journal of Science, 1966, Vol. 62, p. 146.

Professor Govert Cornelis van Drimmelen. Rudolf Marloth Brochure (Southern Africa Association for the Advancement of Science), Centenary Edition, 1902, pp. 25-26.

Compiled by: C Plug