Kent Kleynhans was born in Boksburg on 10 October 1935 and matriculated during 1953 at Helpmekaar Boy’s High School, Johannesburg. Aside from his scholastic achievements, he was also a keen rugby player. He completed his military training at Air Force Gymnasium, where he qualified as a pilot.
His working career started during 1954 at the Department of Public Works and Land Affairs. A few years later he decided to go underground (legally) and found himself surrounded by gold in his capacity as an official at a Randfontein gold mine. Since he could not abide narrow corridors he left the riches behind and opened a shoe repair shop in Pretoria.
His abiding interest in biology eventually led him to study Entomology and Zoology at the University of Pretoria, where he obtained his BSc degree during 1962. After obtaining his degree, he started research on external parasites of animals at the Veterinary Research Institute, Onderstepoort, which resulted in an MSc in Entomology and Zoology at the University of Pretoria. A looming transfer prompted Kent to resign from Onderstepoort and join the Medical Research Institute in Johannesburg, where he remained until 1968.
Kent then realised he was actually a taxonomist at heart so he decided to make a change. Towards the end of 1968 he temporarily joined the staff of the Nematology Section at the Plant Protection Research Institute under the supervision of Prof Juan Heyns while waiting for a position at the National Collection of Insects, Department of Agriculture. He immediately realized that he belonged in nematology and literally went below-ground again to pursue a future in the study of taxonomy of plant-parasitic nematodes, where Nematology in South Africa profited from his knowledge.
Kent was involved in exciting research on the golden cyst nematode of potato, nematodes in maize and cotton nematodes, nematodes associated with nurseries and quarantine nematodes (no connection with his former years in the mines, although it kept him digging in soil).
A special interest in stunt nematodes resulted in a PhD obtained during 1982 with Prof Heyns as his promotor. He continued his research on stunt nematodes as well as root-knot nematodes until he retired on 31 January 1998.
His interest in the complicated taxonomy of root-knot nematodes once made him say that he, the nematodes and the roots were all tied up in knots, but he was thoroughly enjoying himself.
In his professional capacity, Kent was a perfectionist. His PhD. thesis “Taksonomie van sekere terestriële nematode van die Ordes Tylenchida en Dorylaimida” was the first thesis to be submitted without any errors and the first doctoral thesis in Nematology that was presented in Afrikaans.
Apart from taxonomic research, Kent was the first to put a lot of effort into the translation of nematological terms into Afrikaans. His papers always secured complements from the referees as it was free of errors. Kent was meticulous in every aspect, from the study of morphological structures on the nematodes, to his excellent use of the English language. His excellent perception of minute structures on nematodes and his ability to delve into obscure and virtually unobtainable literature enabled him to compile an invaluable compendium of the Family Tylenchorhynchidae.
Kent was known for his benign nature and his ability to get along with anyone crossing paths with him. He was always willing to assist anyone in any situation and collaborated with fellow scientists nationally and internationally. Kent was also an eager mentor to young students in the science of Nematology and was, for a couple of years, frequently requested to assist in Nematology lectures presented at the Pretoria Technical College.
We will remember him fondly for all of the good times we had on field trips, not only when everything ran smoothly but also when Murphy intervened and problems had to be solved. One could always rely on him and his fondness of animals was an inspiration to all.
Needless to say, Kent will be remembered for his keen interest in nature, the universe and everything around him, for his research contributions and the nematode species named after him. Most of all, he will be remembered for being a friend to all of us that knew and worked with him for many years.
Esther van den Berg – ARC-Plant Protection Research Institute Pretoria