African Science Heroes

An African science hero is a person or group of colour, past or present from Africa who despite a disadvantaged background, has boldly persevered and laboured to contribute significantly to global science and technology. Whether it be the Khoisan of Botswana and their historical knowledge of the medicinal properties of plants, or William Kamkwamba, the Malawian boy who even without a secondary school education managed to harness the wind or a notable Ghanaian scientist like Prof. Felix Konotey-Ahulu, a leading expert in sickle-cell anemia – they all embody the values of courage, determination, dedication, compassion, sacrifice, ambition, intrepidity, vision, focus, and creativity.

The goal of African Science Heroes is two fold – first to generate a sense of pride of African accomplishments in science and technology and secondly as role models that will empower young Africans to realize their potential to contribute significantly to the world of science.

nehemiah in the labThis project will gather information about African societies and individuals around the world who despite any shortcomings, have moved scientific knowledge forward and have had a beneficial impact on humankind. This website is one step in the process. Other ongoing approaches include scouring the literature and interviewing scientists around the world to find out what are their sources of inspiration, motivation, influences, and values. All these methods will be funneled into the production of a short film and exhibition which will be developed further in to a touring exhibition and book that can reach out to people from all walks of life in Africa.

Please help with comments, suggestions and thoughts of who your African science hero is and why? And if you do not have one, I would also like to hear why. For your hero – please include their name, country of origin, background, scientific contribution, and the reason why you choose them.

Thank you for your participation!

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19 thoughts on “African Science Heroes

  1. Hi Muza

    Thanks for alerting me to your website. It’s looking good! A potential African Science Hero is Professor Rose Gana Fomban Leke who has spent most of her career looking at how malaria affects women. She currently appears on the home page at http://www.tropika.net. The direct link to our interview with her is http://www.tropika.net/svc/interview/Anderson-20091103-Profile-Leke.

    I must confess I had not heard of her myself until very recently but when my TropIKA.net colleague Tatum Anderson interviewed here I was amazed at how many things Prof Leke has done in her long career. She is retiring shortly.

    I’ll let you know if I have any other suggestions.

    Paul

  2. Great blog, Muza. Well done!

    My African science hero is Peggy Oti-Boateng. Peggy is a Ghanaian nutritionist whom I met when we were both at the University of Adelaide in South Australia. She is a lovely person; my guess is that she might be surprised to be called a hero. She came to mind as my African science hero because she is passionate about trying to do good things that will help local people.

  3. Hi Muza,
    Wonderful blog with lots of information.
    Though I don’t know any African heroes but your blog is interesting to read.
    Hope you are finding your stay in Cambridge useful for your project.
    Do share your experiences to us as well.

    bye

  4. hello muza,

    a dear friend of mine passed your site onto me and i am delighted to say i know several scientists who could easily be categorized as heros. but if i had to choose, i would certainly nominate a kenyan named Onesmo ole-MoiYoi.
    i have had the pleasure of once meeting this gracious man while he was working full time at International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE). he has since spoken at several universities in the last few years and you can hear something of his style in this talk he gave at cornell two years ago (start at 42 min):
    http://www.cornell.edu/video/index.cfm?VideoID=178

    if you would like some background as well, you will enjoy this article the guardian published in 2003.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2003/nov/13/scienceinterviews.research

    good luck with your honorable quest.

    in kindness,

    lee

  5. Hi Muza,
    I think i mentioned Professor Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, the first Ghanaian heart surgeon who had saved many lives in Ghana. Before he came in , Ghanaians with the hole in heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases used to travel abroad for surgey.
    He helped to establish the Ghana Heart Foundation where funding is provided to poor patients who cant afford expensive surgery.
    You can google him to find more

  6. Hi Muza,

    One amazing scientist (and all-round inspirational woman) is Marie-Claire Faray-Kele. She’s Congolese, and now a research scientist in infectious diseases at Barts and the London Queen Mary University of London, Institute of Cell and Molecular Sciences.
    She’s a women’s rights campaigner, and fantastic person.

    I also think she would be happy to speak with you, and be supportive of your project!

    http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/54185

  7. Interesting blog! Congrats. I’m visiting from a link on SciDevNet; I shall be sure to read your posts in future.

    One notable African science hero from Kenya is the late Professor Thomas R. Odhiambo, entomologist and founder of ICIPE (International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology) in Nairobi.

  8. Thanks for your website. I have learnt something. My African science heroes are Clive Chirwa, Ndy Ekere, Philip Emeagwali, Cheikh Anta Diop, Victor Anomah Ngu, Ernest Simo and Gabriel Oyibo.
    Please google them to find what they are doing. Also visit http://www.afrikrafts-zambia.com. You may download a copy of my book African Scientific Legacy.

    Andrew Ose Phiri

    • Thanks Andrew. Some I had heard of before and others are new to me (e.g. Ndy Ekere and Clive Chirwa). I will certainly read up on them. Congratulations on your publication and calender! I have downloaded the book which I am looking forward to reading. I was wondering how to get hold of the calendar. I am really glad to hear that more people on the continent are spreading the word about African contributions to science. Increasing the awareness about African scientific achievements among young people and providing them with role models they can identify with, opens their eyes to a world of possibilities1

  9. Dear Muza,
    How should we define an African Science Hero? Is it someone who has studied science at a tertiary institution? is practising science, say, as a teacher? is an inventor like William Kankwamba? has discovered something? is applying scientific knowledge to solve practical problems? Why “hero”?

  10. All valid questions. An science hero is some one who had overcome obstacles, adversity to do something amazing or to contribute something of significance. William Kamkwamba http://www.williamkamkwamba.typepad.com/ is hero because even with his limited formal education he built a windmill. Heroic in the sense that he did what he could with the little he had and he made a difference and I would put him in the same books as Gebisa Ejeta https://afrisciheroes.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/gebisa-smaller.jpg who came from a small village in Ethiopia but is now world class plant geneticist who has won a world food prize. African Science Heroes is about acknowledging all our talents whether in the lab or in the farm and publicizing them so that young people know they too can be amazing! See the video http://www.youtube.com/user/Afriscihero

  11. Mzamo,

    I have liked the whole idea of African science heroes.In fact,there was a Pan African Science organization called , African forum for Childrens Science and Technology.The organization developed a module for MED students at the then University of Durban Westville entiled,’AFrican Studies in Science Education’ The aim was to highlight the works of notable science educationist , inventors, and others and other notable indegenous science and technology.

    By the way did you receive my response to the mail you sent me sometime back.If you are able to , you can contact me on the following number 265881091549

  12. This is such a great initiative. I have no African Science Heroes as of yet, but there is plenty of info on this blog and will be tuning back in to report. My son however may know of a few. he is a science head.

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