Morris Sika Alala
This is about the man who might have been the first Kenyan African to earn a Ph.D. in Mathematics. He was the first Kenyan African to become Full Professor of Mathematics.
Born: ?; died 1995
M.A. in Pure and Applied Mathematics (1958) St. Andrews University, Scotland. M.S. in Applied Mathematics Glasgow University
In 1973, Professor Alala completed his Ph.D. thesis
thesis: The Derivation and Solution of the Modified Hodgkin-Huxley Differential Equations.
Morris Sika Alala joined the Department of Mathematics of Royal Technical College [now University of Nairobi] as an Assistant Lecturer in 1958. From the first, in 1958, Professor Alala dedicated himself to education. He interacted with students of all ages. He preferred to live a simple straight-forward life. His philosophy was if there is a solution to a problem, then every effort must be made to seek a simpler solution.
He was appointed to Full Lecturer in 1960. In 1965, Alala won a Rockefeller Foundation Scholarship to study at Glasgow University. In 1967, he was appointed Chair of the Department of Mathematics of Royal Technical College. Under his leadership the department grew in eleven years from two African members to ten African members.
In 1968 Alala was promoted to Senior Lecturer. In 1970 continued his studies toward the Ph.D. at Glasgow University, and in 1972 he was appointed the first Kenyan African Full Professor of Mathematics.
In 1973, Professor Alala completed his Ph.D. thesis. Note that Hodgkin and Huxley were awarded a Nobel Prize for their work in the area of his thesis. Alala's doctoral committee developed some conflict between the mathematicians and the biologists with the latter refusing to except work challenging "the physiologists questions how reallistically the modified equations represented the biological phenomenom of nerve impulses." In 1974 Alala was told to make extensive revisions. Dissappointedly, he did not complete this task.
From 1976 to 1980 Professor Alala was Dean Of Faculty of Science at the University of Nairobi until 1980. He was a professor of mathematics until his death in 1995.
refs: Letter from the Office of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Nairobi.
special thanks to Professor Alala's daughter, Margaret Alala.
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