African men and women have made amazing contributions to and discoveries in science since the beginning of history, and continue to do so today! Here are just 5 great African scientists making a difference in the world.
Wangari Muta Maathai
Wangari Muta Maathai is famous for fighting for environmental and human rights, and is also the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She was born in Nyeri, Kenya on April 1, 1940, and became one of the first women to hold leadership positions in the university. When she was part of the National Council of Women of Kenya, Wangari Maathai started the Green Belt Movement. The Green Belt Movement, which led to her Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, helped women to improve their quality of life and the environment at the same time. Wangari Maathai died recently in 2011, but her work lives on and continues to help many people.
Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher
Tewolde is a plant scientist known for his work protecting the environment, farmers, and communities on both a national and global level. He was born in a small village near Adwa, Tigray in Ethiopia on February 19, 1940. His parents put much importance on education, and he became Ethiopia’s first qualified plant ecologist. Tewolde has played an important role in representing Africa on environment and community rights. His work has been recognised by many awards, including the Right Livelihood Award in 2000 and the Champions of the Earth prize in 2006.
Nashwa Eassa is a scientist who researches nanoparticle physics and founded the organisation Sudanese Women in Science to help women scientists. She was born near Khartoum, Sudan, and studied in both Sweden and South Africa. Her research has applications in electronics and water purification, and she received the Elsevier Foundation Award for Early Career Women Scientists in the Developing World. Her organisation, Sudanese Women in Science, provides training and advice to female scientists and also does research on water treatment in developing areas.
Godliver Businge is an engineer who trains women in construction and also hosts a radio show to discuss the importance of educating girls. From Uganda, Godliver has been challenging stereotypes about women and engineering from a young age. She attended St. Joseph’s Technical Institute in Uganda, and was not just the only woman in her class but also achieved the top marks! As head technology trainer at the organisation Global Women’s Water Initiative, Godliver teaches women to use the skills she has learned – metal work, brick laying, concrete, carpentry, mechanical engineering, and more – to build water technologies such as latrines (toilets), filters, and tanks.
William Kamkwamba became world famous when he built a wind turbine to provide electric power using cheap materials from a scrapyard and information he gained from library books. Born August 5, 1987 in Dowa, Malawi, William had to drop out of secondary school when his family could not pay the fees. That was when he started reading books from the community library, and became a clever inventor of electronics. In addition to his first wind turbine, William’s other accomplishments include a pump for clean water powered by the sun, speaking at global meetings, and writing a book and play. William is continuing to use his creativity and knowledge to help communities in Malawi.
What other great African scientists do you know about? What would you like to discover, make, and invent?