Pieter Kotzé was born in Cape Town and grew up on a wine farm near Vredendal in the Western Cape, where he attended school and matriculated in 1973. He obtained a BSc degree in physics and mathematics from the University of the Orange Free State in 1976. He completed his post-graduate studies in physics at the University of Stellenbosch where he graduated with a PhD in 1981. He started his research career as a scientist at the Atomic Energy Corporation (1981-1989) and subsequently joined the Hermanus Magnetic Observatory (HMO) in 1989 as a research physicist. His research activities are in the field of geomagnetism, in particular the time-varying characteristics of the geomagnetic field of southern Africa, as well as geomagnetic storms resulting from the solar wind’s interaction with the Earth’s magnetic field. In the process he uses data from ground surveys and magnetic observatories, as well as satellite observations.
He has spent extensive periods as visiting scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Garching, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Physics in Lindau, the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany, the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh, as well as the GeoForschungsZentrum located in Potsdam. He is currently serving as the South African representative at the International Association for Geomagnetism and Aeronomy (IAGA) where he is also a member of the Executive Committee. He also served as co-chair and chair of IAGA Division V Working Group on Magnetic Observations from 2004 till 2011 and from 2011 till 2015 as the co- chair of IAGA Division V, responsible for geomagnetic observatories, surveys and analyses.