I work hard not for me but for the African child, says globally-recognised Free State professor



Published Nov 25, 2020


Cape Town - A professor from the University of the Free State has been recognised as one of the top 1% of scientists on the 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.

It said the highly cited researchers truly are one in a thousand and the list is updated annually.

Professor Abdon Atangana, 35, originally from Cameroon, has called Bloemfontein home for the past 11 years. He is a mathematician and researcher at the university’s Institute for Groundwater Studies and is one of 10 South African scientists recognised.

He is known for developing a new fractional operator used to model real-world problems arising in the fields of engineering, science and technology.

The Alexandria Engineering Journal had an article which stated that the use of the Atangana-Baleanu operators is a “diverse and flourishing discipline”.

Atangana is ranked in the list owing to his cross-field contribution, which includes mathematics and applications to real-world problems.

According to the university, Atangana has been a researcher for seven years. He received acknowledgement for his work in mathematics in 2019 and moved to the cross-fields category in 2020.

Professor Abdon Atangana hopes his international recognition will inspire other Africans. Photo: Professor Atangana

It said this year, 21 research fields across multiple fields earned this exclusive distinction.

The university reported that Atangana became an editor of more than 20 top-tier journals of applied mathematics and mathematics, and for some journals he was the first African to ever be selected as editor.

Speaking to African News Agency (ANA), a humble Atangana said he did not see this as an achievement but rather a statement.

“It shows that an African can do it. Most (mathematical) formulas are from Europe. So when I introduced my operator it was like a sense of decolonisation. It shows Africans can also compete on the world stage,” Atangana said.

He said he hopes this recognition shows others that they, too, can do whatever they set their mind to.

“Africa is alive. Many good can come from Africa. That’s why I work so hard. I work hard not for me, but for the African child. I want an African child to say they are proud to be from Africa because this formula they use is from Africa,” Atangana told ANA.

He said for far too long the great work from Africans has been sidestepped by those from European countries, and making this mark proves just how great our continent truly is and can be.

Atangana said he formulated his operator in 2016 when he completed his PhD at the university.

“I realised, the world cannot be described by a single mathematical equation. That year, while everyone was busy celebrating Christmas time, I was working hard and thus introduced this operator which is now being used by many people,” he said.

Atangana only hopes to inspire others.

“This is not for me, for the university or for my name to be plastered all over. This is to empower Africans. We need our people in power to make statements and make discoveries,” he added.

African News Agency (ANA)

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