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Boris Ivan Balinsky was an eminent experimental embryologist and an astute natural historian. This symposium is held in honour of his achievements.

Boris Ivan Balinsky (1905–1997) was Professor of Zoology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Balinsky joined Wits in 1949, was appointed Head of Zoology in 1954 and later Dean of the Faculty of Science from 1965 to 1967. He was an eminent experimental embryologist and an astute natural historian. Balinsky’s scientific and wider academic achievements have been recognised in Ukraine, his country of birth. In the School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, his former lab is named after him and several student prizes are awarded in his honour. To celebrate his achievements, the Ukrainian Embassy approached the Vice Chancellor to jointly host a symposium in honour of Balinsky.


Balinsky’s embryological research on amphibians lead to the publication of An Introduction to Embryology that became the foundational textbook for embryologists globally for many years. His post-retirement studies on the hereditability of wing colour patterns in butterflies was a superb demonstration of his observational science, founded on sound evolutionary biology. Balinsky recognised the importance of the adage that “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution.” (Dobzhansky 1973). Within this context, this symposium in his honour will focus on his scientific contributions in the fields of embryology and evolutionary biology. 

Wits will host a 2-day symposium on 10 April and 11 April 2024 which will be part of our centenary celebrations. A scientific organizing committee, comprising of Wits academics and their associates together with the Ukrainian scientists, have generated a scientific programme for the symposium. The focus will be on the science primarily, although the symposium will also be a celebration of Balinsky’s life. The symposium will strengthen scientific ties between Wits and Ukraine.