African maths takes a bow on the world stage and sets off an explosion of new research including how covid-19 spreads

HONOURED: Professor Abdon Atangana of the University of the Free State

A black mathematics professor from the University of the Free State has taken a giant step for the continent after being selected to the top one per cent of global scientists. His work will have an impact on understanding the spread of infectious diseases like covid-19.

Abdon Atangana, 35, originally from Cameroon, has called the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein home for the past 11 years. He is a mathematician and researcher at the university’s Institute for Groundwater Studies. Atangana has recently been recognised as one of the top 1% of scientists on the prestigious global Clarivate Web of Science list.

According to Clarivate, this accolade recognises true pioneers in their field over the past decade, demonstrated by the production of multiple high-cited papers that rank in the top 1% by citations for field and year in the Web of Science. Professor Atangana is known for developing a new maths fractional operator used to model real-world problems arising in the fields of engineering, science and technology.

Clarivate said the highly cited researchers truly are one in a thousand and the list is updated annually. His work has a real-worldapplication for a range of issues including the passage of groundwater flow, the spread of infectious diseases, chaotic problems like weather behaviour, competition problem in biology and a common example is the type of cruise control in cars.

Speaking about this honour Atangana said, “This honour is not for me. It is for Africa. I work hard so that black African children can say Africa is leading the way in mathematics. There is nothing that we can’t do.”

Atangana was also recently 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 has been 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. Atangana received the award for his contribution to fractal mathematics and partial differential equations.


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