Professor Allotey: The great mathematician and scientist

BY: Daily Graphic
Professor Allotey
Professor Allotey

Professor Francis Kofi Ampenyin Allotey, a prodigy, was born on Monday, 9th August 1932, to a humble parentage at Saltpond in the Central Region of Ghana, to the late Mr Joseph Kofi Allotey of the Royal Sempe Mankrado We (House) Accra, a general merchant who owned a store and sold books, fishing nets and general goods, and the late Mrs Alice Esi Nyena Allotey, a dressmaker from the Royal Dehyena family of Enyan Owomase and Ekumfi Edumafa in the Central Region of Ghana.

He grew up hardly knowing the paternal extended family, but in his adult years, he reconnected with his father’s Ga roots - the Royal Allotey Mankrado We of Sempe.

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Education

Prof. Allotey started his early education at the St. John The Baptist Catholic School, Saltpond, and after classes, his responsibility was to go to his father’s store to dust and arrange books. There, he came into contact with, and read books including biographies of renowned scientists and mathematicians such as Isaac Newton, Einstein, Jeans, Hamilton, Gainow, Galileo, Pythagoras, Archimedes, Maxwell and Rutherford, and E. T. Bell’s book “Men of Mathematics”, to name but a few. It’s from these books that he had the inspiration and decided to become a great scientist to learn more about the workings of the cosmos and to contribute to its understanding.

Before he could finish his elementary school education, he heard of the opening of the Ghana National College in Cape Coast and decided to attend that college, which was established by Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana, to absorb final year students and their teachers who had been sacked from other schools for supporting a political demonstration in 1948. At the time, the college was yet to admit its form one students, and as such, he became the only and the first form one student.


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Professor Allotey, the child prodigy, started his public life well before he even reached adulthood and started his university studies. Whilst a student at Ghana National College, he established a school at Saltpond called Fante State College. He was the first Principal and taught General Science, Latin, Mathematics and English.

He left to pursue further studies at the University Tutorial College, London Borough Polytechnic, now called South Bank University, and London Imperial College of Science and Technology where he obtained the then coveted Diploma of Imperial College (London) in 1960. He returned to Ghana to teach mathematics for two years at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), and then went to Princeton University (USA), to study Mathematical Physics for his PhD. He had a truly distinguished academic career.

Family Life

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While studying in London, Prof. Allotey found the woman of his heart and a bone of his bone in the person of Edoris Enid Chandler from Barbados, West Indies and got married to her. They had two children, Francis Kojo Enu Allotey and Joseph Kobina Nyansa Allotey. They relocated to Ghana after his studies to start a new life. Sadly, she passed away in November 1981. Prof. Allotey met Ruby Asie Mirekuwa Akuamoah, remarried. Together they raised her two children, Cilinnie and Kay. She succumbed to illness, and sadly passed away in October, 2011. Prof. had in all, four children and 20 grandchildren. Prof. had a special, soft spot for children, and would often engage any children he encountered in discussions about their performance at school and their biggest dreams and aspirations. He loved his family - both the nuclear and the extended. Despite his busy local and international schedules, and public engagements, he still had time for his family, and made sure the family stayed united. Throughout his life after returning from studies abroad, he found time to visit his mother and siblings at Saltpond and the uncles and aunties at Ekumfi Edumafa, Aboadze, Enyan Owomase, etc. As soon as he arrived, the whole of Appiakwaa where the family house is, would go giddy with excitement. He gave all the households in the area a share of whatever he brought, and his home - C53, became the centre of action as long as he was around. He always went with a screen projector and showed films like Woodie Wood Pecker, Popeye, Frankenstein and the Wolf Man, the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, amongst others.

Prof. Allotey was a scientist, and a man of faith. He was a mass server as a young boy, and always narrated with joy, the first time he served mass as an acolyte. He was made the Chief Patron of the Catholic Men Fellowship of the Archdiocese of Cape Coast, where he was on a number of occasions their guest of honour during annual conferences. He was also instrumental in the formation of the Christians in Science Association in Ghana. At KNUST, he was a pioneer member of the KNUST branch of the Sierra Club.

Service and leadership at national and international levels

Prof. Francis Allotey held various visionary leadership positions for the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Mathematical Association of Ghana, the Ghana Institute of Physics and he played a key role in establishing the University of Energy and Natural Resources in the Brong Ahafo Region.

Prof. Allotey was the first founder member of the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), establishing a postgraduate institute in Africa to train talented young Africans in mathematics and the allied sciences. Consequently, he was the first Board member of AIMS Global, also a member of its Scientific Advisory Council, and a staunch adviser to the AIMS-Next Einstein Initiative, which has given birth to six AIMS Centres across Africa (South Africa, Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon, Tanzania and Rwanda) as at now, after the establishment of the first centre in 2003.

He was a consultant to several international institutions, including the United Nations Organisation, United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Intergovernmental Bureau for Information, and the United Nations Industrial and Development Organisation (UNIDO). He visited many nuclear installations in Russia, Poland, East Germany, Iraq, USA, India, West Germany, United Kingdom, Sweden and former Yugoslavia among others, and was involved locally and internationally on policies and issues related to science and technology for development.

Academic Laurels

Professor Francis Kofi Ampenyin Allotey rose through the ranks as a lecturer to become the first Ghanaian full Professor in Mathematics in 1973 at KNUST. He was ultimately appointed as the Pro-Vice Chancellor of the university in 1978. He became a world authority and an instant fame with his work on Soft X-Ray Spectroscopy which established the principle widely known as the "ALLOTEY FORMALISM" for which he received the Prince Philip Gold Medal Award in 1973.

Science was extremely important to him, and he saw it an essential means of meeting society’s needs for food, water, transport and communication, energy, good environment, health care, shelter, safety and alleviation of poverty. STEM education was also critical in his analyses, and he said that “without mathematical training, Africa would be unable to access the full power of technologies to solve their countries’ numerous problems. … it is time we consistently urged our African youth to learn to contribute significantly by researching into extension of knowledge in Mathematical Sciences.”

For his role in the development and promotion of mathematical sciences in Africa, the African Mathematical Union gave him an award and a medal. He was the first recipient of the Prince Philip Gold medal of the Ghana Academy of Sciences in 1973 for his contribution to physical sciences. Prof. Allotey was honoured with the Millennium Excellence Award for Science and Environment in 2005, and with the Order of Volta (Ghana) award for his outstanding contribution to Science and Science Education in 2009. He also had three (3) Doctoral Awards (Honoris Causa) in Science from Karlstad University, Sweden (2006), Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (2003) and the University of Cape Coast (1998). His most recent award was the coveted Osagyefo Dr.Kwame Nkrumah Genius Award, a lifetime achievement award, and though awarded before his death, was received posthumously as the event happened soon after his death.

Professor Allotey’s hallmark traits were his style of leadership by empowering others; his ability to challenge people to reach for higher goals and achieve more; his readiness to help young people and expose them as much as he could, to many opportunities and create a large pool of mentees, in whom he invested his time and energy.

Even though Prof. Allotey, by the nature of his work and engagements was a very busy man who travelled the whole world over, he found time in his leisure period to have good conversations with all who made contact with him. He listened to classical, jazz and Ghanaian music. He had great interest whenever the Black Stars were playing, and also watched Arsenal, his favourite club, Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham Hot Spur, Barcelona and Real Madrid play.

Professor Francis Kofi Ampenyin Allotey, Opanyin Kofi Ampenyin, of the Royal Dehyena family and the Royal Sempe Mankrado We passed on peacefully to his Maker and the family who had gone before him on November 2, 2017, the feast of All Souls in the Catholic calendar. Indeed, the family has lost a son, who was “a native of Saltpond, a son of Ghana and a citizen of the World”, who served humanity with all that God endowed him with.

Damirifa due, da yie,
Nyame mfa wo kra nsie,
Yaa Wɔ Odjogban,
yɛ Tsɛ lɛ mli.