Wilmot James


Nobel Laureate David Baltimore wrote about Wilmot’s book Nature’s Gift: Why we are the way we are that he (Wilmot) ‘is fascinated by science and discusses ideas, people and history with elegance, skill and a deep human sympathy.’

A Member of the South African Parliament, Dr Wilmot James is the official opposition’s spokesperson on health. Past portfolios were trade & industry, science & technology & schools & higher education.

Born in rural Paarl and spending his teenage years in Cape Town’s Athlone, which today is his constituency, Wilmot acquired an undergraduate degree from the University of the Western Cape and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, received as a Fulbright Scholar.

Most of his professional life was spent in the higher education sector in South Africa, the US and the U.K.

Dr James has been involved in public policy work dealing with immigration, electoral reform, education, trade, science & technology and health. He served on the boards of insurance giant Sanlam and media company Media24.

Of the 17 books published, most honorific was as co-editor of Nelson Mandela: From Freedom to the Future (2003), which was given to Mr. Mandela on his 85th birthday.

More recent efforts are a work in the public understanding of science Nature’s Gifts: Why we are the way we are (2009); the social history of South Africa’s vineyards Grape: Stories of the Vineyards in South Africa (2010); and an e-book titled Moments with Mandela (2012).

After spending 12 years as a Trustee of the Ford Foundation, he entered public life during 2008 and was elected to Parliament on 22 April 2009.

Dr James is currently an Honorary Professor in the Division of Human Genetics at the University of Cape Town, a non-residential Senior Fellow at the Hannah Arendt Centre at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, and Member of the Brenthurst Foundation’s Peer Review Group on the African City – Development or Triumph?

Married to Delysia Forbes, Wilmot has two daughters Gabriele (23) and Isabella (13). A regular hiker, he enjoys playing the piano and is obsessed with unusual cars. His best job ever, he says, was as Chairperson of the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra.