Monday, 2 April 2018

The African Presence in Mathematics:

the Role of African Women and A New Generation of Black Inventors
“You don't need anybody's permission to be a  great mathematician”

It was during last years British Science week that Michael Williams first learned of Dr. Nira Chamberlain. Williams' organisation put together an event entitled “2 Million Years of Hidden African Inventions and Innovations” where he invited Dr. Donald Palmer, senior professor at the Royal Veterinary College and one of the scientists and inventors featured in the ground-breaking title Black Scientists and Inventors in the UK: Millenniums of Inventions and Innovations” to do a presentation, which included his own role models.

It was during that part of his presentation that he mentioned one of his major role models is a mathematician named Nira Chamberlain. Williams had the good fortune of meeting Dr. Chamberlain in the flesh a few weeks later at the annual REACH Society careers conference where they both shared a STEM stand along with several other STEM professionals. Williams recalls
“...during my conversations with Dr. Chamberlain, I found that not only was he a mathematics genius but he also had an in-depth knowledge of blacks in mathematics from the 1700s to present day. So I decided at that point I'd invite him to share his life's story at the Black Scientists & Inventors 2018 British Science Week event and also most importantly to include him in the next edition of
the international best-selling Black Scientists & Inventor books.”

On Saturday 17th March 2018, attendees braved the severe weather conditions to travel from several regions around the country which included; Reading, Surrey, Bristol and the Midlands to join the Black Scientists and Inventors team at the 'The African Presence in Mathematics and A New Generation of Black Inventors' event in the popular MAAT centre in Tottenham, North London, to learn about the inventive and scientific genius of Blacks in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and inventions (STEMi). They were especially excited to hear about and from Dr. Chamberlain.

The attendees were first met with a few sections of the BIS Publication's travelling exhibition on Black Scientists & Inventors. On display were the parts that included the: African Origin of technology and the Black Pioneers of Microelectronics and Telecommunications.

Audience listening to Dr Chamberlain and surrounded by parts of the
Black Scientists & Inventors Travelling Exhibition.

Williams opened the event by showing via videos some of the exciting work that he and the Black Scientist and Inventors team have been doing over the last few years. These videos featured elements taken from the books Black Scientists and Inventors books 5 to 7 and also clips from his 'Fun with Science' workshops.

Williams then went on to give a small interactive presentation, he asked the audience how many people here have seen the film Hidden Figures and did they enjoy it? The majority said they had and all said they enjoyed it. He then went on to remind those who may have forgotten (and inform those who were not aware) that the Black Scientists and Inventors book series has many,many, many more hidden figures within their pages.

He then ask similar questions about the recently released block buster film The Black Panther (BP), to which he received a similar response. Williams then stated to the audience that the fictitious country of Wakanda featured in the film need not be fictitious in its regards to science and technology. He challenged the audience to look back at African history and you'll soon see Wakanda like countries / regions. He said “all one needs to do is study the empires such as Benin, Songhai, Ghana, Mali, the Swahili, Kush, Nubia, Khemet and Great Zimbabwe to name a few.” He said “Wakanda is a state of mind which the African can make real again when he/she once again starts to change their frequency and vibration, first by believing in themselves (positive self- esteem) and their people (positive group esteem) and stop allowing others to define the African potential.” He then showed us via video what he called one of Africa's modern day best-kept secrets, a company named Katanka a real life Wakanda, which lays within the borders of Ghana.

We saw some amazing electro-mechincal products invented and innovated by Katanka's scientists and engineers, which included the amazing Katanka 4x4 car. Williams told us that this company and its founder a modern day Imhotep can be found in his book Black Scientists & Inventors Book 6.

He then showed two contributions via video of two people who are to be featured in his new title to be released later this year. The first was Jamaican inventor Harlow Mayne, the inventor of H-2 Flex a cleaner, renewable, environmental friendly energy source for auto mobiles. Mayne who was currently between Jamaica and the US, busily working on his invention sent his best wishes to all those in attendance.

Harlow Mayne, Jamaican inventor of  the H2-Flex.

The next video message was Dr. Hadiyah-Nicole Green, the African American medical physicist whose invention could revolutionise the way the medical and pharmaceutical industry treat cancers. She also sent her best wishes.

 Dr. Hadiyah-Nicole Green, African American, inventor of 
a process for treating cancers.
After a short break the event resumed with the moment everyone was waiting for, Dr Nira Chamberlain in conversation with Michael Williams. This section was extremely interesting and very encouraging to see parents at the event with their children to meet a black British doctor of mathematics and inventor. Williams asked Dr Chamberlain to introduce himself, then to tell us about his successes and challenges. Dr. Chamberlain relayed many experiencs to us “ after I finished school I did know what I want to do, I found a book of careers from A to Z. I flicked through the book and it stopped at M, the first career under the letter was Mathematician. I thought to myself well I like maths, I'm quite good at it, why not. I later went and told a careers teacher that I want to be a mathematician, what do I need to do to make it happen?” The teacher answered him by saying “the way your built you should consider being a boxer” He told his father of this, his father replied with “You don't need anybody's permission to be a great mathematician” he now acknowledges that those powerful and direct words his father said to him during his teens were extremely important to his development in becoming a world leading mathematician. Another message he had for all in the audience was something he learnt on his journey and that was that being good at maths and not fearing it was simply about building your confidence. This is similar to the lessons Marcus Garvey taught black people about developing confidence.

Williams then showed images of several black mathematicians on screen, starting with NASA scientist / mathematician and Dr. Chamberlain's favourite role model, Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson. He was asked to tell the audience about this amazing woman. He also told us about Benjamin Banneker, Francis Williams, Thomas Fuller and others.

Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, NASA Mathematician.
Williams last question to Dr Chamberlain was one both adults and children found intriguing and would bring up further questions from the audience later. That was “tell us a little bit about your masters dissertation you presented back in the 1990s, I believe there is some sort of connection between it and Shuri (Black Panthers' sister in the 2018 film)” invention of the Black Panther suit , is that correct?

T'challa (the Black Panther with his sister Shuri a leading Scientists in Wakanda)
At this point I leave it there as you can find out his answer and more about Dr. Chamberlain in Michael Williams' new Black Scientists and Inventors book. That said I will leave you with a diagram and some equations courtesy of Dr. Nira Chamberlain proving that Shuri's BP suit invention isn't as far fetched as some might believe.

Continuity of wave a diagram from taken from Dr. Chamberlain's
1990s MSc Dissertation which proves Shuri's BP suit invention.

To learn more about many other great Black Scientists & Inventors make sure you invest in a series of the international best-selling series.
See Dr. Chamberlain, plus a whole host of black STEM professionals including representation from the Black Scientists & Inventors team on the STEM stand at this years REACH SOCIETY CAREERS CONFERENCE, taking place on 4th April at the Royal National Hotel, Bedford Way, London WC1H 0DG. For more info call: 07949 431 992.