Doc Kok - In memory

Obituary: Dr. Thomas Steyn Kok (1919-2013)

In 1993, Dr Kok was the GWD recipient of the 4th Ground Water Medal for outstanding and
significant contribution to the scientific understanding of groundwater in South Africa.

Dr TS Kok on his 93rd birthday!

Thomas Steyn Kok was born on 5 December 1919 on the family farm near Patensie in the district of Hankey in the Eastern Cape. He matriculated in 1937 and then obtained a B.Sc with Chemistry and Geology as majors from the University of Cape Town in 1941. For a period of three years during the 2nd World War he was a weather forecaster for the Air Force and joined the Geological Survey as a ground water geologist in 1947.For the next 15 years he did ground water surveys and borehole site selection in the then South West Africa. This work led to his Ph.D entitled "The occurrence and location of groundwater in South West Africa" which was awarded to him in 1964 by his old Alma Mater, UCT.
He got married in Windhoek in 1951 to Ursula Esselgroth Albrecht and they had two children, Karin and Diether, all now living in Pretoria.

Dr. Kok considered the time spent in Namibia as being the highlight of his career. It started as a result of a car accident in which Hermann Korn (the geologists Martin and Korn who had spent the war years in the Namib desert to avoid being put into internment camp as German nationals ) was killed and Thomas Kok was asked to take his place. Having worked for some years with Dr. Martin, Thomas Kok was appointed as the Responsible Geologist in the then SWA when Dr. Martin took up a professorship at the University of Gottingen, Germany.

In 1964, with the rank of Chief Geologist, he was transferred to the Regional Office of the Geological Survey in Pietermaritzburg and to Pretoria in 1966 from where he controlled many groundwater investigations in the South Africa. In 1976 he, together with the whole Groundwater Section at the Geological Survey, were transferred to the Department of Water Affairs to form a new Division in the Department under the leadership of Mr JR Vegter. Dr Kok held the position of Chief Hydrologist when, in 1979, he retired (for the 1st time!). He immediately joined the same Directorate at DWA again as temporary Hydrologist and played an active role in the hydrogeological investigations in the 1980's. In 1985 he moved into the field of hydrogeology and groundwater pollution risks at waste sites, a task he was involved in (on demand) until his very last days at the Depatment. His extensive geological knowledge was particular important for the protection of groundwater as part of the system of permitting waste disposal sites.

In 1993, Dr Kok became the recipient of the 4th Ground Water Medal of the Groundwater Division of the Geological Survey for outstanding and significant contribution to the scientific understanding of groundwater in South Africa.

The Geological Survey of Namibia (GSN) recently decided to publish Dr. Kok’s thesis as a Memoir, given that the work on all the different formations in Namibia - their water-bearing properties; the respective targets for borehole siting; the yields and qualities that can be expected; and the success rates - is still regarded as fundamental information.

The greatest tribute comes from young hydrogeologists who had the privilege of working with him at some time - here one of them:
Doc will be remembered with great fondness by the many geohydrologists that benefited from his knowledge and guidance. His deep laugh, the twinkle in his eye and his commitment to climbing the stairs every day on his way to his office in the Patterson Building were trademarks. He made a massive contribution to waste management in South Africa and helped much of the thinking still applied today.
(Roger Parsons)