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Building named after Nobel laureate
24 April 2014

MH CormackBuilding honour: From left, Em Prof Kit Vaughan with Jean Cormack and Jo Prentice, relatives of Nobel prize winner Allan Cormack for whom the building occupied by the Department of Research and Innovation is named.

A family man, who enjoyed solving problems and had a great sense of humour.

These were words Emeritus Professor Kit Vaughan used to describe the Nobel laureate at the naming of Allan Cormack House. Cormack, a nuclear physicist who studied and worked at UCT before immigrating to the US, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1979 for his contribution to the development of computed tomography or CT scanner.

The building named after him houses UCT's Department of Research and Innovation among others.

His youngest daughter Jean Cormack was present at the naming ceremony hosted by UCT registrar Hugh Amoore. Cormack, who was born in Cape Town but lives in America, was visiting her South African cousin, Jo Prentice, whose mother Amy was Allan Cormack's sister. She said she was honoured that the university had chosen to remember her father in this way.

Vaughan, who won the 2010 UCT Book Award for his biography of Allan Cormack, Imagining the Elephant, quoted from Cormack's acceptance speech upon receiving the Nobel Prize together with Godfrey Hounsfield: "There is irony in this award since neither Hounsfield nor I is a physician. In fact it is not much of an exaggeration to say that what Hounsfield and I know about medicine and physiology could be written on a small prescription form."

Vaughan noted that the speech perfectly illustrated Cormack's "self-deprecating humour and genuine humility". He donated a copy of his book to the occupants of Allan Cormack House adding that he trusts that the occupants "will take the time to find out more about the man after whom (their) building is named".

Story by Abigail Calata. Image by Michael Hammond.

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