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Astronomy at the University of Cape Town began in the late 1950s with the appointment of a research astronomer (Fernie, succeeded by Dixon, then Wild) to the teaching staff of the Physics Department. When it became apparent in 1970 that the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) would be founded close to the University, a separate astronomy department was established.

From 1972 to 2004, this department was headed by the Chair Prof Brian Warner, with one or two, but never more than two, additional lecturers (Wild, Fairall and Kurtz). From 2005 to 2014, this department was headed by the Chair Prof Renee Kraan-Korteweg. The undergraduate major in astrophysics was reintroduced in 2006 and the department underwent a tremendous growth.

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