May 30, 2008

World’s Most Famous Living Scientist Joins Quest for African Einstein

The world’s most famous living scientist, Stephen Hawking will deliver his first-ever public lecture in Africa, as a guest of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in MuizenbergCape Town.

Titled Universe, it will take place on Sunday, 11 May at 18:00, in the Muizenberg Pavilion.

A stellar list of scientists and engineers, including two Nobel Prize Laureates in Physics, David Gross and George Smoot  and the Head of NASA, Michael Griffin  will also be speaking and participating. The Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor, will be introducing the event.

The public lecture is part of a new AIMS initiative, to “unlock and nurture scientific talent across Africa, so that within our lifetimes we are celebrating an African Einstein,” says Professor Neil Turok, founder and Chair of AIMS.

He launched the initiative in winning the globally renowned Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) prize earlier this year. Turok, Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University, says there has been an overwhelmingly positive response from scientists, major companies, universities and leading political figures worldwide. Details will be announced on 11 May.

The institute’s director, Professor Fritz Hahne says: “We are honoured to host and listen to the most famous living scientist on the planet.”

Hawking’s books have inspired movies and made the general population aware of the complex, yet fascinating area of theoretical physics. “Hawking is thought of as the greatest mind in physics since Albert Einstein. With similar interests – discovering the deepest workings of the universe – he communicates mysterious matters not just to other physicists but also to the general public,” says Hahne.

Established in Muizenberg in 2003, the goals of AIMS are to promote mathematics and science in Africa, recruit and train talented students and teachers and build capacity for African initiatives in education, research, and technology.

Over the past four years, AIMS has graduated 160 students from 30 African countries. A further 53 students are currently at AIMS, including 20 women, from 20 different African countries. The quality of the students has grown strongly, with over six applications currently received for each available place. Global interest and goodwill allows AIMS to recruit from the best lecturers worldwide.

“The institute’s remarkable staff, outstanding lecturers and highly- motivated students have created a gem of an educational centre,” Turok says. AIMS graduates have an exceptional record of proceeding to excellent Masters and PhD programmes, where they are already making an impact, in many fields.

“We are looking forward to welcoming some of the world’s top scientists to Africa. Their presence will help encourage Africa’s brightest maths and science graduates to enter programmes like AIMS, where they can grow into independent problem-solvers, creative thinkers, innovators and excellent teachers, not ivory tower academics.”

“Among them will be people of rare genius capable of revolutionary advances, as scientists, educators, wealth-creators and active participants in the knowledge economy. Together they will form a powerful network working together towards African educational and economic self-sufficiency. As well as an African Einstein, we want to see the African Gates, Brins and Pages of the future,” says Turok.

Brin and Page founded Google, the world’s most successful internet search engine. They recently met two AIMS graduates at the TED conference in California.

Tickets for the public lecture are available at Computicket here or by calling +27 (0)83 915 8000.

Visit and

Neil Turok’s talk at TED, with online discussion and over 21 000 views, at or

About AIMS

The African Institute for Mathematic Sciences offers a nine-month, postgraduate course covering many of the most exciting areas of modern science, taught by outstanding African and international lecturers.

The course develops strong mathematical and computing problem-solving skills and leads to a postgraduate diploma in the mathematical sciences, formally accredited by the three partner South African universities – the University of Cape Town, the University of the Western Cape and the University of Stellenbosch – and taught in association with the Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, the Division of Physical Sciences at the University of Oxford, and the University of Paris-Sud 11.

Students with good mathematics, science or engineering degrees are invited to apply and will be supported on bursaries where needed.

AIMS is recognised as a Centre of Excellence by the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and has won major ongoing support from the South African Ministries of Education, and Science and Technology.

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