Kevin Govender

Kevin Govender
Kevin Govender
Credit: IAU/Kevin Govender
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Occupation: Director of Office of Astronomy for Development

Year born: c. 1981

Research Areas: Nuclear Physics, Astronomy, Sustainable Development


"I see every day how people who are moved by our place in the universe are inspired to move others"

Source: Medium, June 2016


Early Life

Kevin grew up on a sugar-cane farm in South Africa. His mother was a primary school teacher and his father was a mechanic. Kevin volunteered for his community as part of a youth club and set up a science club at school. He saw how important it was to give people control of their own learning and to follow their interests. Kevin studied physics at university. He did not do any stargazing when he was young. There was a superstition that counting stars would give you warts! Kevin’s interest in astronomy started in his final year at university when he spent a month at the South African Astronomical Observatory.

Career Highlights

Kevin trained and worked as an experimental nuclear physicist. He spent a lot of his time on community projects as well as research. He realised he wanted to help South Africa more than do scientific research, so he became manager of the Southern African Large Telescope's Collateral Benefits Programme at the South African Astronomical Observatory. Kevin and his team used the knowledge, technology, and other resources produced by the telescope to improve the quality of life for others in South Africa.

In 2011 Kevin became the first Director of the Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD). Development means improving people’s lives and making the world a better place. The OAD was set up by the International Astronomical Union and the South National Research Foundation. The OAD’s mission is to use astronomy to educate people of all ages around the globe and support poorer countries to take part in cutting edge research. The OAD combines physical and social sciences to support those most in need.


Kevin and the International Astronomical Union won the Edinburgh medal in 2016. It was awarded for creating the IAU Office of Astronomy for Development. Kevin is the first South African to win the award.