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Black people in science (especially those linked to Britain) are rarely spoken about.

For the entirety of October, we're going to be talking about notable Black people in science, tech and more.

Day 1 - Francis Williams

Francis was a scholar born in Jamaica ~1700. He was educated in England and became a well-known public figure in Jamaica and England - a rare example of a black person granted the education reserved for white people

(source: @royalsociety/@V_and_A)
William’s successes in mathematics and verse earned him recognition amongst his supporters. At the same time, there were deep prejudices held against him, against the colour of his skin, that would prevent him from taking up his deserved place in science and society
He was refused election to the @royalsociety.

"[Williams] was admitted to the meetings of the Royal Society, and, being proposed as a member, was rejected solely for a reason unworthy of that learned body, viz. on account of his complexion"

-Gentleman's Magazine, May 1771
Williams was ridiculed by white contemporaries such as David Hume (the philosopher) who described Williams as ‘like a parrot who speaks a few words plainly’
When Williams set up a school in Jamaica, Edward Long suggested that a black pupil had been sent "mad", where "the abstruse problems of mathematical intuition turned his brain".
Long also stated that Wiliiams' education was an experiment sponsored by the Duke of Montagu, to see whether black people could be educated in the same manner as white people.
Williams was used as an argument in favour of abolition.

Although Williams himself was a slave owner and not an abolitionist - as a pioneering black writer, his very existence challenged the ideological basis of trans-Atlantic slavery.
Over his life, his family's estate had reduced from over £12,000 to £694 and he was living in rented accommodation when he died in 1762.
Day 2 - Dr Jim Gates (@Dr_JimGates)

Jim Gates is a theoretical physicist who works on supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory

His research involves the representation of supersymmetry w/ Adinkra symbols (named for the Ashanti symbols from Ghana)

Supersymmetry algebra is an area of theoretical physics that mathematically describes the relationship between bosons and fermions (the two main classes of particle)

Representation theory is the study of how we can use graphical symbols to describe this.
While being used decoratively on clothes and in architecture, the original Ashanti Adrinkra symbols are used to represent proverbs, concepts and principles.
In 1817, Thomas Bowdich (an English writer the company of the African Company of Merchants) traveled from Cape Coast to the Kingdom of Ashanti (both in modern Ghana - the latter's capital being Kumasi).

The Adinkra covered cloth he returned with is now in @britishmuseum
(Not related to science but Ashanti history is super interesting and Yaa Asantewaa is one of the most amazing figures in West African history because of her fight against the British)

ANYWAY, this 1817 cloth (which is the earliest surviving one in Western record) features fifteen stamped symbols, including nsroma (stars), dono ntoasuo (double Dono drums), and diamonds.
It's amazing that this tradition, from Medieval Ghana, has found its way into modern theoretical physics, thanks to Jim.

As he states:

"The use of symbols to connote ideas and conceptions which defy simple verbalization is perhaps one of the oldest of human traditions"
You're probably thinking

"hey, you said that you wouldn't focus on African - Americans because October is UK #BlackHistoryMonth"

Yeah but it's talking about a concept originating from Ghana and so it's okay BECAUSE COLONIALISM.
Oh shit, we fucked up explaining representation theory (because we had the word "symbol" on the brain, don't judge)

It's more representing algebra using linear transformations.

Our boy @yesitisben has our back though 👊🏿👊🏿👊🏿

Day 3 - Cheikh Anta Diop

He was a Senegalese historian, anthropologist, physicist, and politician who studied the human race's origins and pre-colonial African culture.

He also has one of the best anthropological quotes in history.

Diop was born in Senegal in 1923, a time when it was still under the colonial rule of the French.

At the age of 23 (1946), he went to study in Paris and ended up with a degree in Philosphy plus two diplomas in Chemistry.
In 1953, he first met the son-in-law of Marie Curie, Frédéric Joliot-Curie. While spending time submitting and resubmitting his philosophy thesis, Diop began to specialise in nuclear physics (and ultimately ended up translating parts of Einstein's Theory of Relativity into Wolof)
During his time in Paris, he's said to have been educated in History, Egyptology, Physics, Linguistics, Anthropology, Economics, and Sociology (this coming from his own account of his time there).
In one of his earlier theses, he said that Ancienct Egyptian language & culture had later been spread to West Africa. When he published many of his ideas as the book "Nations nègres et culture", it made him one of the most controversial historians of his time.
During his time in Paris, he was also politically active in the RDA, who opposed French colonisation in Africa

He believed that the political struggle for African independence would not succeed without acknowledging the civilizing role of the African, dating from ancient Egypt.
After 1960, Diop went back to Senegal and continued his research and political career. He established and then was the director of the radiocarbon laboratory at the IFAN (Institut Fondamental de l'Afrique Noire).

(The IFAN was later renamed in his honour)
Diop's views on the influence of ancient Egypt within Africa extended to ethnicity as well.

He believed that it was possible "to determine directly the skin color and, hence, the ethnic affiliations of the ancient Egyptians by microscopic analysis in the laboratory
Diop later published his technique and methodology for a melanin dosage test.

In a 1973 paper entitled "La pigmentation des anciens Égyptiens. Test par la mélanine," he described the technique used to determine the melanin content of mummies.

Its methodology was criticised.
Despite this, during his life, he argued that there was a shared cultural continuity across African peoples and that this was far more important than the varied development of different ethnic groups shown by differences among languages and cultures over time.
As an anthropologist (in addition to his views on the influence of Ancient Egypt), he was critical of Western pigeonholed views of the people of Africa - with broad ethnological groups assigned, splitting the continent.

He, to this day, has one of the best academic quotes:
Ultimately, Diop had a wildly varied scholarly and political life. Although aspects are worthy of criticism (like most scholars), his work continues to pose important questions about the cultural bias inherent in scientific research.
Day 4 - Nashwa Eassa

A Sudanese physicist, Nashwa works in nanoparticle physics - specifically in an area known as nano-photonics.
Her work has explored the workings of a type of high-speed semiconductor, focusing on how to lessen the film that accumulates on its surface and interferes with the flow of electrical current.
In addition to that, she's also involved in projects to develop methods to split water molecules for hydrogen collection and to sanitise water with solar radiation
Day 5 - Dr Wangari Maathai

Maathai was a Kenyan environmentalist, MP, and the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
Maathai was born in 1940 in the Nyeri District in Kenya. Placed the the central highlands of Kenya, it's a region placed directly southwest of Mount Kenya.

(Fun fact: Mt Kenya is the 2nd largest mountain in Africa (after Kilimanjaro) and provides water for over 2 million people)
Kenya was still a colony of Britain at the time but became the independent Republic of Kenya in 1964.

In 1960, as the end of colonial rule approached, Kenya began to form links with Western nations - especially through educational programmes.
In September of 1960, Maathai was one of 300 people chosen to study in the US.

At Benedictine College in Kansas, she studied biology (with minors in German and chemistry) and graduated in 1964 - the same year that Kenya became the country that it is today!
(Shout out to Kenyan Independence Day - Jamhuri Day - on the 12th of August. Celebrate it next year by going to Buckingham Palace with a tub of githeri or something)
Another person who was educated on the same educational programme as her was Barack Obama Sr - father of @BarackObama.

(Look at Maathai stunting on the Obamas in 2006. Sis came through in the Mahershala Ali yellow. What a flex).

After graduating, she then went to Pittsburgh to get her MSc in biological sciences and, upon returning to Kenya in 1966, was appointed as a research assistant in Zoology at the University of Nairobi.
Except, when she actually arrived to start the job, she was told that it had gone to someone else. Suspecting that it was tribal or gender bias, she searched for a new role and found one working on microanatomy at the university in the Department of Veterinary Anatomy
In 1967, at the urging of her boss (Prof. Reinhold Hofmann), she travelled to Germany to get her PhD and studied at the University of Giessen and the University of Munich.
In 1971, after moving back the Kenya as an assistant lecturer and having a son, she completed her PhD! Her dissertation focused on the development and differentiation of gonads in bovines.
By 1977, she was the first woman in Nairobi to become an associate professor. By then, she had already become involved in civic organisations in Kenya (as director or chair for a lot of them) and realised that environmental degradation was the source of a lot of Kenya's problems.
Between 1979 and the early 90s, she pushed for environmental reforms from the government. In 1977, she started the Green Belt Movement, an environmental non-governmental organization focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation, and women's rights
The Green Belt Movement organised women in rural Kenya to plant trees, combat deforestation, restore their main source of fuel for cooking, generate income, and stop soil erosion.
At the end of the 1980s, the political landscape was such in Kenya that there was a single party regime. They opposed the movement's positions regarding democratic rights & invoked a colonial-era law prohibiting groups of more than 9 people from meeting w/o a government license
(That's some Harry Potter shit right there, just saying)
Later, she discovered that the government was planning to construct a the Kenya Times Media Trust Complex, a 60-story building with surrounding infrastructure, in Uhuru Park - an area in central Nairobi.
She opposed this and spent years campaigning, writing to individuals within and outside of Kenya to help stop the project. She even sought an injunction in the Kenyan High Court.

The government displaced the GBM from their offices and audited them, to try and shut them down.
Despite all this, her protests, the government's response and the media coverage it garnered led foreign investors to cancel the project in January 1990.
In January '92, Maathai and other pro-democracy activists learned that a list of people were targeted for assassination and that a government-sponsored coup was possible.

Maathai's name was on the list.
Maathai decided to barricade herself in her home. Shortly thereafter, police arrived and surrounded the house.

She was besieged for three days before police cut through the bars she had installed on her windows, came in, and arrested her
She was charged, along with other activists, with spreading malicious rumors, sedition, and treason. After 1 1/2 days jail, they had a hearing & were released on bail

Following international pressure (especially the US),the Kenyan government dropped the charges - 10 months later
In the years following, Maathai continued fighting the government for reform politically and environmentally. She was recognized with various awards internationally, but the Kenyan government did not appreciate her work.
During this time, she campaigned politically to have the opposition party come into power. She herself ran - unsuccessfully - in the late 90s.
In 2002, she was elected as a MP - winning 98% of the votes in her district - this time as a candidate of the National Rainbow Coalition, the umbrella organization which finally united the opposition.
From 2003 - 2005, she was the Assistant Minister in the Ministry for Environment and Natural Resources and founded the Mazingira Green Party of Kenya in 2003 to allow candidates to run on a platform of conservation as embodied by the Green Belt Movement
In 2004 she became not only the first African woman but also the first environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her "contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace" through the Green Belt Movement and more.
In 2011, she passed away following complications arising from ovarian cancer while she was receiving treatment in Nairobi.

In 2012, Wangari Gardens, a 2.7 acre community garden project, opened in Washington DC. It honours the legacy of Wangari Maathai and her mission.
Since its foundation, @GreenBeltMovmnt has planted over 51 million trees, and trained over 30,000 women in forestry, food processing, bee-keeping, and other trades that help them earn income while preserving their lands and resources.

Oh yeah, thanks @AlvinMukono for pointing out that Jamhuri Day is on December 12th.

(btw, shoutout to the dickhead who defaced the Wikipedia entry on the day of researching this. Teaches us for blindly accepting the first link from Google)
Day 6 - Professor Manley West

The Jamaican pharmacologist who created Canasol - a medical cannabis extract for treating glaucoma.
Born in 1929, West's journey led to him studying across the globe. He went to Kingston Upon Thames High School, studied at the University of London, as well as St Helier Hospital, Cambridge, and more.

A keen fisher, when he returned from England, he bought boats.

The fishermen on his boats told him that fishing at nights was facilitated by the improved vision from smoking (or drinking rum infused with) marijuana

West sought to identify the cause.
In 1964, the active ingredient of cannabis, THC, was identified by Mechoulam & Gaoni.

Advances in research proceeded slowly over the next 20 years but a major contribution came from West and his opthamologist colleague Albert Lockhart - both at the University of The West Indies.
West and Lockhart started their research journey when they noted:

1. People from rural communities who used eyewash purportedly derived from cannabis claimed improved eyesight.

2. A reduction in glaucoma among Rastafarians who traditionally used cannabis
After presenting some initial findings at a conference, they were awarded a $20,000 grant from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

In the paper that they presented, they showed that people who used marijuana had lower intraocular pressure than non users.
Intraocular pressure is the pressure of the fluid inside the eye. It's an important aspect in the evaluation of patients at risk of glaucoma (which leads to damage to the optic nerve and vision loss).
This grant - combined with personal investment - led to years of research which resulted in the development and patent of a drug for the treatment for glaucoma - Canasol - one of the first cannabis extracts.

It also led to Asmasol - an extract to treat asthma!
Day 7 — Graman Kwasimukambe

A botanist and natural scientist with a controversial legacy in @NHM_London.

(source: @NatHistGirl)
A little context:

Historically, West Africa was a major location in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

One of the most important regions to colonial powers was the Gold Coast (now a part of modern day Ghana).

A significant area was that of Elmina.
After 50 years of exploration down the African coast, the Portuguese finally reached Elmina in 1471

The first Europeans to reach the Gold Coast, they found an established gold trade between traders and the native Fante.

They set up a trading post:

"A Mina" - The Mine.
At the height of the gold trade in the early sixteenth century, 24,000 ounces of gold were exported annually from the Gold Coast, accounting for one-tenth of the world’s supply
During the time that the Portuguese were there, they built a castle to protect and facilitate the trading of gold and other goods in the region.

As the 17th century closed, Elmina Castle (then São Jorge da Mina) was a key stop in the slave trade.
It was a depot where slaves, often captured in the African interior by the slave-catchers of coastal peoples, were sold to Portuguese and stored before being shipped away.
In 1643, Elmina was taken over by the Dutch, who made it the capital of the Dutch Gold Coast and continued the slave trade.
It's incredibly difficult to explain the horrors of a place like Elmina.

They crammed >1,000 slaves into a space that could fit 200 people

Yearly, 30, 000 slaves went through the infamous "Door of No Return" - the portal leading them onto the ships for the Middle Passage.
Born around 1690, Kwasimukambe was born in an Akan area of West Africa (likely modern Ghana) and was enslaved at a young age - sent to the Dutch colony of Suriname.

This is where, as @NatHistGirl explains, Kwasimukambe became a controversial figure.
He was skilled in medical and spiritual knowledge

As well as treating his fellow slaves, he also gained recognition (& money) from the Europeans for treating them

He began to help the Dutch capture escaped Maroons - escaped slaves who had mixed with the indigenous people
According to the Saramaka Maroons today, he is remembered primarily as a traitor who gained medical knowledge from them, then led European soldiers into the forests.

According to their oral histories, their then-chief cut off Kwasi's right ear.
For his services to the Dutch in helping to defeat Maroon rebellions, Kwasimukambe was given a golden breastplate engraved with 'Quassie, faithful to the whites'.

He became personal slave to the governor and was later given his own freedom.
Kwasimukambe was the first botanist to scientifically describe Quassia amara - a plant that has multiple properties.

Extracts from this plant have been described as having uses in traditional medicine, insecticide, and as a food additive.
One of his Kwasimukambe'remedies was a bitter tea that he used to treat infections by intestinal parasites.

Due to his his exploration and description of the plant, taxonomist Carl Linnaeus named it after him.

It became one of Suriname's biggest exports.
At the end of his life (~1776), he lived in a grand house in Paramaribo, Suriname, paid for by the Dutch government (he had been given previous recognition for his services to them)

He was a plantation owner in his own right, profiting from his own enslaved workers
Today, he is remembered - with his discovery - in @NHM_London with a ceiling panel in Hintze Hall
A lot of the information for the life of Kwasimukambe came from the brilliant write up by @NatHistGirl.

Check it out on @NHM_London

We went to @NHM_London and found the ceiling tile!

It's right next to the giant sequoia!
Day 8 - Berhane Asfaw

Asfaw is an Ethiopian paleontologist of Rift Valley Research Service and co-discovered Homo sapiens idaltu - "Herto Man" - which has been proposed as an early subspecies of modern humans.
Day 9 - Prof Francis Kofi Allotey

Born in 1932 in the fishing town of Saltpond in Ghana, Allotey was a mathematical physicist who defined the "Allotey Formalism" - a technique used to determine matter in outer space - from his work on soft X-ray spectroscopy.
Day 10 - Prof Courtenay Bartholomew

From Port of Spain in Trinidad, Bartholomew was the first West Indian to obtain a specialty degree in gastroenterology from the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh

He diagnosed the first case of AIDS in the English-speaking Caribbean!
Okay, thanks to SUPER FLU, we're now 5 days behind so THIS EVENING WILL BE A SPEED RUN.
Day 11 - Prof Mohamed Hassan

Born in Sudan in 1927, Hassan has a PhD in Mathematics from Oxford & is Dean of the School of Mathematical Sciences, @u_of_k. His research has spanned theoretical plasma physics & fusion energy, wind erosion, and dust and sand transport in dry lands
Day 12 - Dr Thomas Odhiambo

Born in 1931, Odhiambo was a Cambridge-trained Kenyan scientist who founded the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in 1967 at the University of Nairobi, renowned for giving African farmers low-cost solutions for pest control.
Day 13 - Prof Chike Obi 🇳🇬 

Obi was born in 1921 & studied mathematics in Nigeria, London and MIT. In Nigeria, he was one of the first to have a PhD in maths. His research dealt with the existence of periodic solutions of non-linear ordinary differential equations.
He helped pioneer mathematics research in Nigeria (alongside James Ezeilo and Adegoke Olubummo).

(If any matheticians are reading, we've looked at plenty of papers but still have no idea what periodic solutions of non-linear ordinary differential equations are).
Day 14 - Prof Marian Addy 🇬🇭

Addy studied botany in Ghana and at obtained a PhD in biochemistry in the US. The first Ghanaian woman professor of natural science, her research on diabetes mellitus led to the improvement of herbal plant formulation for the treatment of the disease
Day 15 - Dr Moses Kizza Musaazi 🇺🇬

Musaazi was a Ugandan scientist who invented low-cost & disposable sanitary pads for girls across Uganda - especially those in rural areas

The Makpad was the very first environmentally-friendly pad: made from papyrus & recycled paper
Day 16 - Dr Rose Dieng-Kuntz 🇸🇳

Rose Dieng-Kuntz was a Senegalese computer scientist born in Dakar in 1956 and was the first African woman to enroll in Ecole Polytechnique in France.
Her PhD thesis was on parallel computing.

This (at its simplest) describes how problems are made up of multiple steps and how they can be carried out simultaneously by a computer, and combined at the end to produce the answer far quicker.
She later worked on expert systems and knowledge webs - broadly under the field of AI.

Her research was fundamentally about the nature of communication: what it means to ‘know’, how human beings classify and categorize new information, and how that information is shared
Day 17 - Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Fullani al-Kishnawi 🇳🇬

A medieval mathematician, he was a Fulani from northern Nigeria. He traveled to Egypt and in 1732 he wrote a manuscript in Arabic of procedures for constructing magic squares up to order 11.

He died in Cairo in 1741
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