Obituary: Jos Lurie 1929 – 2015

May 11th, 2015, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: PositionIT



Jos Lurie

Jos Lurie, an honorary life Fellow of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy  passed away on  27 April 2015 at the age of 86 after his fight with cancer.

From his early childhood  in Maclear in East Griqualand he challenged the world and showed his leadership qualities in the Scouts and through independent camping adventures. His youthful occurrences are recorded in an unpublished book he wrote in the last full year of his life titled “An Exciting Life” by Jos Lurie, that I was privileged to proof read.  This was typical of Jos, recording all activities and contributions made during his exciting life.

His first employment was as a filing clerk and then he got a job as a trainee draftsman – he qualified in 1947.  He  progressed through self-interest to the Department of Trigonometrical Survey in Mowbray, Cape Town where he extended his skills to surveying and he obtained a distinction in the survey course including photogrammetry.  Whilst in Cape Town his adventurous spirit prevailed with weekly climbs of Table Mountain.

His survey excellence was built up in Zululand and the Cape and culminated in his obtaining employment in 1954 as an engineering surveyor in Kenya to set up irrigation schemes.  During this four year period Jos learned to fly small planes and had the opportunity to climb the Kilimanjaro parasite volcanic peak of Kibo (5890 m) the highest altitude in Africa, in record time, accompanied by only one other friend.  He was always an adventurer!

Jos met and married Brenda (his wife of 57 years) in 1958.  Brenda was an English nursing sister from Surrey, England who was in the middle of a nursing contract in Kenya at that time.  Their honeymoon took them on an adventure in a Land Rover through Central Africa during turbulent political times before they decided to return to South Africa.   In Grahamstown Jos studied Geology while being supported by Brenda, and graduated BSc (Hons) with distinction in 1961.

In 1963 Jos chose the option of education as a future career, and joined the staff of the Witwatersrand Technical College as a lecturer in geology and surveying.  This has been his life and passion ever since.

Jos was passionate about vocationally based technical engineering education in particular. He was a competent practical and theoretical geologist, gemmologist and surveyor of the highest order. He was the Head of the School of Mines from 1980 for more than 20 years after which, in semi-retirement, he continued active engagement up until 2014.  He was a highly respected academic, a prolific author and researcher whose works will no doubt continue to influence the world.  He was well travelled and shared most of his travels with Brenda by his side.

In recognition of his service to the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM) from 1980 to his “first retirement” in 1990, Jos was made an honorary life Fellow of the Institute.  He never gave up his interest in education with courses being offered up until late 2014 when he started to become ill.

During his tenure at Technikon Witwatersrand he carried out a specialist study in the Pilanesburg on rare earth economic deposits culminating in a PhD award in 1974.  Again the support of Brenda was always recognised by Jos.  He remained a recognised expert in this field throughout the remainder of his life and has left comprehensive materials to support future possible mining ventures.

Such activities not being enough to satisfy Jos, he set to writing technical  books for publication which included:

  • History of Mining and Metallurgy at Technikon Witwatersrand (1980)
  • SA Geology for Mining, Metallurgical and Hydrological and Civil Engineering (1977 – 11 editions)
  • Technikon Witwatersrand: A History 1925 – 2000
  • Symetrix Dynamic 3D Model Maker (2012)
  • Symmetrical Polyhedra (2008)
  • Lurie and Ponelat’s Catalogue of Symmetrical Polyhedra (2008)
  • The Pilanesburg Alkali Complex, Geology, Geochemistry and Economic Potential (2008)

Jos had more than 15 published technical papers and reports as well as many conference presentations across the world ranging from hydrology in Kenya to microscopic mineral analysis to a new football (just prior to SA World Cup activities in 2010) and synthetic gems.

An Exciting Life”, the  unpublished record of his life will be a tribute to him, and is a fitting end to not only an exciting life, but a life of contribution and success. It will be an inspiration to those that follow him.

He is survived by his wife, Brenda, and their son, Ross, and daughter, Wendy.

Peter Knottenbelt

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