Eulogy: Rias J van Wyk

It is with sadness that we greet Prof Rias van Wyk for the last time…

IAMOT mourns the passing of Prof Rias J van Wyk, from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Prof van Wyk was one of the 21 “Founding Members” of IAMOT as recognised in the 1992 Articles of Incorporation. He is worthy of special recognition for his contribution to the conceptualisation, shaping and establishment of MoT as a discipline and  profession taken up by academia, industry and government worldwide. 

He received a BCom degree in 1957 from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a BCom Hons in 1960 from the same university. His MCom followed in 1962. In 1966 he received a MPA from Harvard, with speciality in Science, Technology and Public Policy and in 1970 a DCom from Stellenbosch University in South Africa. He held several positions as a statistician and economist from 1959 to 1963. Following that, he became Head of Research Economics at the CSIR, in Pretoria. His first professorship was in economics from 1969 to 1970 at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa. He then became professor in Business Management at Stellenbosch University, and later moved to the University of Cape Town as Professor of Business Administration in the Graduate School of Business on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. In 1993 he was appointed in the WR Sweatt Chair in Management of Technology at the University of Minnesota. He was director of Technoscan, focusing on technology guidance for the new millennium, serving engineers, technology managers and science and technology policymakers. 

He served as board director and as an academic, he published widely. His latest book, “Technology: Its Fundamental Nature” (2017) is his legacy to support scholars in MoT to understand the essence of technology. He addresses the origins of technology, as a field of knowledge, the functionality grid and the techno-sphere. His latest thinking had much to do with technology and the environment and technology and humankind and touched on technology awareness and technological wisdom. He valued originality in thought, a relentless pursuit of the truth and a continuous effort to understand the essence of technology. He identified landmark technologies and placed them on the Omega map, a landscape construct that places matter, information and energy onto process, transport and storage. The last technology landmark that he circulated was on artificial glaciers for arid areas.

Rias van Wyk will be missed by all his colleagues and students and friends, but in particular by his wife Erna and children and their families. Our hearts as an IAMOT community go out to them. His legacy will remain and many a classroom and MoT discussion at IAMOT conferences and elsewhere will still speak his name and recognise him for the insights he has left with us, to enrich our discipline and our lives. 

Rest in peace, Rias.

(Written by Anthon Botha, 12 October 2020)