Moneleli Govuzela | 03 October 2017
It might seem as a challenging and/or frustrating task for one to come up with and/or mention any place of science, let alone an achievement made by Africa in science. However, this is the easiest task, because contrary to what people perceive and believe about the “Dark” continent, we have made significant contribution to science since the dawn of time.
The Nguni people say “Inyathi ibuzwa kwabaphambili’’ meaning that wisdom is acquired from elders. Therefore, we are going to embark together on a journey from antiquity to modern day in the quest of finding African scientific landmarks. These are the achievements of African womxn and men in natural science, mathematics, engineering and technology. Our journey will start from north to south - beginning with and in the Nile valley.
From the beginning of time, the descendants of east Africa who later populated the Nile basins were fascinated by the world around them and as with all Africans, the science of astronomy was used as a means to understand and keep time as well as to inspire and validate religious beliefs. In the process, advanced mathematics developed in the Nile from the lands of Kush to Kemet (Egypt).
Large Pyramid buildings across these lands got initiated when Imhotep built the first Step pyramid during the reign of Pharaoh Djoser. Symbolizing mastery of civil and structural engineering, architecture and geometry. These structures still attract many tourists and are a symbol of pride to mankind.
The revolution made by the introduction of the telescope in astronomy opened infinite possibilities for humankind to probe further and try to answer questions about the heavenly bodies. Works by Thomas Maclear and Sir Herschel brought modern observation astronomy to Africa. Today Africa prides itself with world class astronomy facilities such as the Square Kilometer Array, the High-Energy Stereoscope System (H.E.S.S) and Southern African Large Telescope. Here, science, technology, engineering and mathematics meet, and groundbreaking work is done. Our excellent skies and “big eyes” surely makes Africa one of the world best astronomy destination.
The Akan drums of the Ghana kingdoms in west Africa are one of the early telecommunication methods in Africa. However, modern science has led to more advanced forms of telecommunication. This has seen Africa, through Square Kilometer Array, form one of the first optical fibre networks in the southern hemisphere. Shaping the future of information technology and high-performance computing in Africa.
When Emperor Lalibela of Ethiopia (1181 – 1221) requested for a creation of a new Jerusalem, the churches of Lalibela were built. The world saw one of the most admired civil and structural engineering achievements. The rock-hewn in rural Ethiopia deserve to be in our list of land marks. Besides, Africans have carried the legacy of large scale civil engineering project of our forebears. However, this time the task is not building a modern African Jerusalem. Africa prides itself with beautiful stadiums and dams which are admired civil engineering structures, such as the Hidase dam of Ethiopia, the FNB stadium (the calabash) to name a few.
Those in material science and engineering must take pride in the fact that Africans are certainly the earliest metallurgists. With abundance of natural resource, we have mastered the craft of extraction, purification and making products out of our raw materials. Our human spirit, artistic craft and creativity was blended with our metallurgical knowledge. From the gold masks of Tutankhamun to the Ife Heads, Great Zimbabwe and Mapungubwe, Africans were par excellent in material engineering.
Modern day material science has changed dramatically since antiquity and the understanding and appreciation of material science has been advanced by development and knowledge of atoms, Quantum mechanics, crystallography and the technological instruments. Africans have embraced all these, and pride themselves with state of the art technology for material science research such as the High-Resolution Transmission Electron Microscope (HRTEM). Now, we can manipulate the most intrinsic properties of matter at nanoscale level, which will help us formulate new and superior materials for industrial and biological purposes. Our indigenous ingenious spirit passed to us by our forefathers through their magnificent works in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics will see us make history and united as a people. Making sure that through the new eyes of modern science and technology, we forge a sustainable and prosperous future by creating science that is for the advancement of Ubuntu