From Felix Ikem, Nsukka
Prof Alexander Animalu, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) Professor Emeritus of Physics and the first Solar Energy Researcher in Nigeria has been showered with commendations by academics in the country on his outstanding achievements.
Speaking in Nsukka on Thursday during a colloquium organised by Animalu’s friends and former students in UNN to mark his 85th birthday, Prof Charles Igwe, the Vice-Chancellor of UNN described Animalu as an academic elephant, teacher of teachers and professor of professors.
Igwe said Animalu is an erudite professor whose numerous textbooks books, teaching, and academic publications on science and technology were being quoted globally.
“Globally the history of science and technology will be incomplete without mentioning Animalu, he is a teacher of teachers and professor of professors.
“UNN will continue to be proud of the physicist who was former Director General of National Mathematics Centre, Nigeria Academy of Science, among others,” he said.
In a remark, Prof. Chidi Akujor, Chairman of the Planning Committee said the occasion was an unwritten obligation of all true intellectuals to honour individuals who through their outstanding intellectual output have had a profound influence in the scientific milieu, adding that not many would fit that description better than Emeritus Prof.Animalu.
“After my first encounter with him in 1997, in my usual inquisitive manner, I went to the reserve section of the library to consult the ‘citation index’. I was shocked that his name was a keyword with several pages of citations. Most of these papers cited were in such high-impact journals as Physical Review and Philosophical Magazine.
“Again, on June 1, 1986, I entered the building of Ettore Majorana Center for Scientific Culture in Erice, Sicily, Italy for a two-week NATO Advanced Course on Cosmic Rays. The only striking feature in front of the quadrangle of the complex was a large flex banner with the heading “Intermediate Quantum Theory of Crystalline Solids by Alexander O.E. Animalu.”
“Indeed, as the attention of the participants focused on the display, I felt so proud being identified as his former student. A few months later I saw this book on display on a special shelf in the corridor of ICTP in Trieste as among the famous books of famous Scientists from the developing world. On my trips to several countries, Professor Animalu’s name was among those names that would always come up once you are identified as a Nigerian,” he said.
Speaking further, Akujor noted that Prof. Animalu, through his works in physics, philosophy, science, and technology has made a tremendous impact in science that this generation and generations to come would find it difficult to ignore him.
“He is responsible for lighting our interest in renewable energy, particularly solar energy. He is a great man, a professor of professors, a teacher of teachers, a mentor of our generation, and an acknowledged genius,” he said.
Also in a remark, Prof. Augustine Ubachukwu. Dept of Physics and Astronomy, UNN and Co-Chairman of the planning committee said “I first met Emeritus Professor Animalu in 1978 (45 years ago) in my second year as an undergraduate Physics student. I was then the Class Rep, and he was taking us in Phys 231- Thermal Physics. I still remember that the first assignment he gave us was on the liquefaction of gases, which caused us some anxiety until he told us it was an impossible assignment.
“I never knew what a great Physicist, Prof. Animalu is until I visited India as a Research Fellow at the Inter-University Centre for Radio Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) in 2001. There, I met Prof. V. K. Kapahi, who was then the Director of the National Centre for Radio Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune, India. I felt highly elated when he told me that they used Prof. Animalu’s book on the Intermediate Quantum Theory of Crystalline Solids for their Higher degree studies,” he said.
In a separate Key Note Address Prof. Anya O. Anya and Prof. Ikenna Onyido applauded and described Animalu as an academic giant whose contraction to science and technology will remain indelible.
They, however, expressed concern about the country’s poor economy and deteriorating quality of education.
They noted that the country is living in its past because subsequent political administrations in the country ignored the feature.
According to them, to correct these anomalies Nigerians should be careful about the political leadership they enthroned, hence all efforts to change the narrative will be an exercise in futility.
Responding, the celebrant (Animalu) who is also pioneer president of the Solar Energy Society of Nigeria expressed appreciation to all who contributed in one way or the other for the colloquium in honour of his 85 birthday.
“I’m not unaware of the economic hardship in the country as a result of the fuel subsidy removal, I remain grateful for the financial sacrifice by my academic friends and colleagues as well as my former students.
“Silver and gold I have none to pay back but God Almighty will reward you all abundantly,” he said.
The emeritus professor expressed his happiness to have had such a gathering in his honour while he was still alive.
“I thank God that I’m alive to see and witness what looked like a full-fledged funeral for me,” Animalu said.
The highlight of the occasion was the cutting of the 85th birthday cake by Prof. Animalu assisted by friends and well wishes.
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