National History Museum

John Nyaphuli receives Morris F. Skinner Award

John Nyaphuli with the 2011 Morris F. Skinner Award

John Nyaphuli, the National Museum’s most experienced fossil preparator, was awarded the 2011 Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Morris F. Skinner Award.  This award is presented for outstanding and sustained contributions to scientific knowledge through the making of important collections of fossil vertebrates and encouraging, training or teaching others towards the same pursuits.  Based in the United States, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology is palaeontology’s largest international society.  John is only the second South African to have won this award, after the late James Kitching, who won it in 2000.

John has 38 years of experience in the field and has recovered hundreds of fossils, including six specimens that are completely new to science. His efforts in the field have been recognized by numerous researchers and in honour of his contribution to palaeontology, two new species, the basal anomodont therapsids (ancient ancestors of mammals) Australosyodon nyaphuli and Patranomodon nyaphulii, have been named after him. He was also awarded Honorary Life Membership of the National Museum in 1999 and Honorary Life Membership of the Palaeontological Society of Southern Africa in 2004 for his outstanding contributions to palaeontology.

John, at the age of 78, travelled to Las Vegas with Dr Jennifer Botha-Brink in November 2011 to attend the 71st annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in order to receive the award in person.