Professor Samuel Ejikeme Okoye, one of Africa’s top astrophysicists, died in London on Wednesday, November 18, according to a statement authorized by his family. The family did not release the cause of death.
Professor Okoye, who hailed from Amawbia in Anambra State, was born on July 26, 1939.
Professor Okoye earned a B.Sc (First Class) in Physics from the University of London and a PhD in Astrophysics at Cambridge University. He was the first black African to obtain a doctorate in Radio Astronomy.
An internationally renowned scientist, he will be remembered by many readers for his scientific columns for The Guardian which he wrote for more than four years. His columns, which focused on information technology as well as advances in scientific ideas, drew a wide readership because of his ability to convey difficult scientific ideas in accessible language.
Professor Okoye was a fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Science as well as the Royal Astronomical Society of the United Kingdom. For five years, he served on the governing council of the Pugwash International Conferences on Science and World Affairs. In addition, he was a member of the New York Academy of Sciences, International Network of Engineers, Scientists for Global Responsibility, and the International Astronomical Union.
For many years, Professor Okoye lectured in physics and astronomy at the University of lbadan and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) where he achieved the rank of full professor in 1976. At UNN, he also served at various times as Director of the Division of General Studies; Head of Department of Physics and Astronomy; Associate Dean and later Dean of the Faculty of Physical Sciences, and Dean of the School of Post Graduate Studies. In 1978, Professor acted as Vice Chancellor of UNN.
Professor Okoye’s numerous scientific papers and publications span the ionosphere physics, solar physics, and the theory of extragalactic radio sources and cosmology. He also authored a monograph, Viable and Affordable Policy Objectives for a Nigerian Space Programme. He co-edited two books, Basic Science Development in Nigeria: Problems and Prospects, and The World at the Crossroads: Towards a Sustainable, Equitable and Livable World.
Apart from Nigeria, Professor Okoye also lectured in the Netherlands, the US, and the UK. From 1990 to 1993, he served as a visiting professor/senior research fellow at the Institute of Astronomy, and Fellow Commoner at Churchill College at the University of Cambridge.
He was a member of Nigeria’s official delegation to the United Nations Conference on Peaceful Uses of Space in Vienna, 1981 as well as a member of a panel charged in 1984 with producing an integrated energy policy for Nigeria. From 1986-1988, he was the chairman of the Board of Governors of the Awka campus of the Anambra University of Science and technology (ASUTECH).
Professor Okoye was a consultant to the United Nations on the development of space science and technology in developing countries (1979-1986).
In late 1993, he was seconded from the UNN to the Federal Government. He served as the pioneer science attaché and head of the Science and Technology unit of the Nigerian High Commission, London.
Professor Okoye taught or inspired a generation of Nigerian scientists who hold high academic, industry and bureaucratic positions in Nigeria and around the world.
His family will be announcing funeral arrangements in due course.
For enquiries, contact:
Dr. Chike Chuka