This SA professor was just ranked second-best mathematician in the world

Mildred Europa Taylor November 19, 2022
Prof Abdon Atangana is Professor of Applied Mathematics in the Institute for Groundwater Studies at the University of the Free State. Photo: UFS

A professor from the University of the Free State (UFS) in South Africa has been ranked as the second-best mathematician in the world and No 188 in all of science, technology, and engineering in Stanford University’s Top 2% Scientists in the World.

Abdon Atangana is a Professor of Applied Mathematics at the Institute for Groundwater Studies at the UFS. Stanford University created the list of the top 2% of world-class researchers based on citations over their full careers, according to UFS. The list was published in September and highlights 195 605 researchers who make up the top 2%.

The UFS added that Stanford “has developed a database of highly cited scientists that is freely accessible to the public and offers standardised data on citations, h-index, co-authorship adjusted hm-index, citations to publications in various authorship positions, and a composite indicator (c-score). Data for impact across a lifetime and impact in a single recent year are displayed separately.”

37-year-old Atangana is originally from Cameroon but Bloemfontein has been his home for 12 years now, IOL reported. In 2020, he was recognized as one of 10 South African scientists in the top 1% of scientists on the global Clarivate Web of Science list, the outlet added. Atangana is also famous for developing a new fractional operator used to model real-world problems arising in the fields of engineering, science and technology.

“It is always encouraging to see a researcher from a developing nation at the top of the list in a difficult scientific field like physics, chemistry, or mathematics,” Atangana said of Stanford’s list. “Many academics from the global South made it into this list, dispelling the myth that only researchers in the global north are capable of doing high-quality research. 

“Being an African Black individual and the second-ranked mathematician in the world shows that the subject of mathematics is not limited by geography or race; as David Hilbert stated. Mathematics is a subject that transcends all national boundaries. The No 1 in general mathematics is from Stanford, however his real speciallity is computer science,” he added.

The UFS said Atangana being placed 188th in the world in all of science, technology, and engineering is very instrumental as it shows that the influence of his study can be compared to other fields that are still ranked among the top 200 in the world and is not limited to mathematicians. 

“I am the author of various crucial mathematical ideas that are applied and pure mathematics. For instance, I created the Atangana-Baleanu fractional derivatives and integrals, which constitute a novel calculus and are based on the general Mittag-Leffler kernels. Since its inception in 2016, this fractional calculus has been employed in various fields of science, technology, and engineering,” the professor said.

“I am the creator of various concepts in epidemiological modelling, numerical analysis, and integral transformations. I am also the pioneer of the fractal-fractional calculus, which is employed in all domains of applied sciences. I developed the most recent ideas known as piecewise differentiation and integration.”

Besides Atangana, some 22 researchers from the UFS also made the list, including Prof Ivan Turok (Research Chair in City-Region Economies in the Department of Economics and Finance and the Centre for Development Support, ranked 21,680), Prof Jorma Hölsä (Research Fellow: Department of Physics, ranked 84 593), Prof Melanie Walker (NRF Chair in Higher Education and Human Development: Centre for Development Support, ranked 67 313), Prof Maxim Finkelstein (Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, ranked 76 745), Prof Hendrik Swart (Department of Physics, ranked 49 504), Prof Deborah Posel (Department of Sociology, 151 656), Prof Ted Kroon (Physics, 162 769), Prof David Motaung (Physics, ranked 150,223), Prof Maryke Labuschagne (Plant Breeding and SARChI chair in disease resistance and quality in field crops, 133 124), Prof Jeanet Conradie (Chemistry, ranked 89 746), and Prof Johan Grobbelaar (Plant Sciences, ranked 82 692) amongst others, the UFS said.

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