January 20, 2018

Day 29: Prof. Francis Allotey

In honour of Black History Month we will be recognising notable contributions to the STEMs from people of African origin. Today we recognise Prof. Francis Allotey.

Born (1932) in Ghana, Prof. Allotey is a mathematical physicist best known for his contributions to mathematical education in Ghana and to the field of advanced physics. Coming from humble beginnings, Prof. Allotey was pulled out from school at an early age only to return at age 9 under the impress of his grandparents. Throughout his early years at school, he spent most of his free time at his father’s stationery shop where, apart from attending to customers, he read some of the books on sale, especially the biographies of famous scientists. He would later attend the Ghana National College  in  Cape Coast  and became the first and only Form One student of the school. After secondary school at the age of 19, he established his own school which collapsed after a few years due to his absence. At this time he studied at the Borough Polytechnic, UK, and later at the Imperial College of Science and Technology. He obtained his Masters and Ph.D in Mathematical Physics from Princeton University and  returned to Ghana in 1960 to take up a lectureship position at the Department of Mathematics of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). From here he would later become Head of the Mathematics Department, the Founding Director of the Computer Science Department and Pro-Vice Chancellor.

Prof. Allotey is renowned for the “Allotey Formalism” which attempts to explain what happens when an atom is bombarded by external particles and for which he received the Prince Philip Gold Medal Award in 1973. His other achievements include establishing the Laser Research Unit of the University of Cape Coast, becoming one of few Africans to have serve on the board  of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the only African to be named among the 100 most eminent physicists and mathematicians in the world in a highly publicized book. On the national level he has held positions as President of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences; African Institute for Mathematical Sciences-Ghana and Chairman of the Accra Institute of Technology. Internationally, he was the King-Chavez-Parks Visiting Professor of Physics at Michigan State University; Organizer and Chairman, UNESCO/ANSTI International Conference on Renewable Energy; and Member, Sub-Committee on Technology transfer of the UN Conference on New and renewable Energy Sources. He was also invited by IBM International to join a Group European Professors touring Computer Science Centers in American and Canadian Universities.

Prof. Allotey continues to promote education through the Professor Francis Allotey Graduate School at the Accra Institute of Technology which was established in 2009. He is an advocate of active learning and interactive engagement between faculty and students as an efficient teaching method. He is also a supporter of the MISE Foundation which trains Ghanaian students from all backgrounds to compete in the International Maths Olympiad.