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14 December 2020
Prof Abdon Atangana
Prof Abdon Atangana is known for his work in developing a new fractional operator used to model real-world problems arising in the fields of science, technology, and engineering. He was recently awarded the TWAS Mohammad A. Hamdan Award by The World Academy of Sciences.

Prof Abdon Atangana, Professor of Applied Mathematics in the Institute for Groundwater Studies at the University of the Free State (UFS), was awarded the TWAS Mohammad A. Hamdan Award by The World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries.

It is the first time that the TWAS Mohammad A. Hamdan Award was bestowed. According to a statement issued by TWAS, this award is given for outstanding mathematical work carried out by a scientist working and living in Africa or the Arab region. It states that the award can be given for work in pure mathematics, applied mathematics, probability, or statistics. Prof Atangana received the award for his contribution to fractal mathematics and partial differential equations.

Making a difference in society

He is known for his research in developing a new fractional operator, the Atangana-Baleanu operator, which is used to model real-world problems. With this operator, he not only describes the rate at which something will change, but also account for disrupting factors that will help to produce better projections.

His work can be applied to make complicated predictions in the fields of science, technology, and engineering. His models can, for instance, help to predict the spread of infectious diseases among people in a settlement, forecasting the number of people who will be infected each day, the number of people who will recover, and the number of people who will die.

Prof Atangana’s models can also help to advise people drilling for water by predicting how groundwater is flowing in a complex geological formation. These are only two examples of how his work can be applied to make a difference in society.

The award from TWAS is the third prestigious commendation he has received in the past month. He was recently named as one of the top 1% scientists on the global Clarivate Web of Science list. His name also appeared on a global list of leading scientists published by Stanford University in the United States. The list is the result of a study published in PLOS Biology, a peer-reviewed open-access journal.

World’s most accomplished scientists

Honours awarded by TWAS and its partners are among the most prestigious for research in the developing world. They recognise outstanding achievements and contributions to science and acknowledge the best work by scientists from the global South.

TWAS, founded in 1983 by a group of scientists under the leadership of Pakistani physicist and Nobel laureate, Abdus Salam, believes that developing nations – by growing strength in science and engineering – will be able to address challenges such as hunger, disease, and poverty, through their knowledge and skills.

TWAS is represented in 100 countries, and of the more than a thousand elected fellows, 14 are Nobel laureates. Eighty-four percent of these fellows are from developing nations. TWAS fellows are also some of the world’s most accomplished scientists.

News Archive

Africa the birthplace of mathematics, says Prof Atangana

 Description: Prof Abdon Atangana, African Award of Applied Mathematics  Tags: Prof Abdon Atangana, African Award of Applied Mathematics

Prof Abdon Atangana from the UFS Institute for Groundwater Studies.
Photo: Supplied


Prof Abdon Atangana from the Institute for Groundwater Studies at the University of the Free State recently received the African Award of Applied Mathematics during the International conference "African’s Days of Applied Mathematics" that was held in Errachidia, Morocco. Prof Atangana delivered the opening speech with the title "Africa was a temple of knowledge before: What happened?” The focus of the conference was to offer a forum for the promotion of mathematics and its applications in African countries.

When Europeans first came to Africa, they considered the architecture to be disorganised and thus primitive. It never occurred to them that Africans might have been using a form of mathematics that they hadn’t even discovered yet.

Africa is home to the world’s earliest known use of measuring and calculation. Thousands of years ago Africans were using numerals, algebra and geometry in daily life. “Our continent is the birthplace of both basic and advanced mathematics,” said Prof Atangana. 

Africa attracted a series of immigrants who spread knowledge from this continent to the rest of the world.

Measuring and counting
In one of his examples of African mathematics knowledge Prof Atangana referred to the oldest mathematical instrument as the Lebombo bone, a baboon fibula used as a measuring instrument, which was named after the Lebombo Mountains of Swaziland. The world’s oldest evidence of advanced mathematics was also a baboon fibula that was discovered in present-day Democratic Republic of Congo.

Another example he used is the manuscripts in the libraries of the Sankoré University, one of the world’s oldest tertiary institutions. This university in Timbuktu, Mali, is full of manuscripts mainly written in Ajami in the 1200s AD. “When Europeans and Western Asians began visiting and colonising Mali between the 1300s and 1800s, Malians hid the manuscripts in basements, attics and underground, fearing destruction or theft by foreigners. This was certainly a good idea, given the Europeans' history of destroying texts in Kemet and other areas of the continent. Many of the scripts were mathematical and astronomical in nature. In recent years, as many as 700 000 scripts have been rediscovered and attest to the continuous knowledge of advanced mathematics and science in Africa well before European colonisation. 

Fractal geometry

“One of Africa’s major achievements was the advanced knowledge of fractal geometry. This knowledge is found in a wide aspect of Africa life: from art, social design structures, architecture, to games, trade and divination systems. 

“The binary numeral system was also widely known through Africa before it was known throughout much of the world. There is a theory that it could have influenced Western geometry, which led to the development of digital computers,” he said. 

“Can Africa rise again?” Prof Atangana believes it can.

He concluded with a plea to fellow African researchers to do research that will build towards a new Africa.

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