Among South Africa's earliest research ventures was the Royal Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope, established by the British Admiralty in 1820. Societies of leading engineers, architects, chemists, metallurgists, and geologists were organized in the 1890s, and the South African Association for the Advancement of Science was established in 1902. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (founded in 1945) has 13 research divisions. The Atomic Energy Corporation established an experimental nuclear reactor in 1965 and has since directed the government's nuclear program; in 1970, it was announced that its researchers had devised a new uranium-enrichment process, subsequently developed by the national Uranium Enrichment Corp. The Scientific Advisory Council to the Minister of National Education (established in 1962) promotes the application of scientific knowledge and recommends national science policies and programs.
The Hartebeestheek Radio Astronomy Observatory's 26-meter-diameter antenna was originally constructed to serve as a tracking station for NASA's Deep Space Network. In Johannesburg are located a geological museum, the Adler Museum of the History of Medicine, and the James Hall Museum of Transport. Botanical and zoological gardens are located, respectively, in Durban and Pretoria. South Africa has 30 universities and colleges offering courses in basic and applied sciences. In 1987–97, science and engineering students accounted for 29% of college and university enrollments.
In 1987–97, expenditures for research and development totaled 0.7% of GNP; 1,031 scientists and engineers and 315 technicians per million people were engaged in research and development.