Prof. Allotey (1932 – 2017): A Tribute

Prof. Allotey (1932 – 2017): A Tribute

Still from the film Multiverse Ghana in which Professor Allotey starred. Here he was being interviewed.


A great scientist has passed away at the end of last year.
But he was more than that. An example of what the title ‘scientist’ should entail.

Born on August 9th 1932 in Saltpond Ghana, he was 85 years old when he suddenly passed in the evening of November 2nd 2017. Prof. not only excelled in the language of Mathematical Physics during his lifetime, understood only by a few. He managed to speak a language that affected many. One of passion and for people. He was always concerned with science education and policymaking for science and technology and sustainable development, especially related to Africa.

Allotey Formalism

One of Prof.’s big achievements was a theory named after him “the Allotey Formalism” which he had postulated in the early 70s. He was the first to introduce electron-hole scattering resonance effects on soft X-ray spectroscopy. It was an important contribution to the understanding of atoms, and had important implications for space science.


Professor Allotey urged that the next big scientific breakthrough should come from Africa. With their own cultural backgrounds, he felt African students should feel encouraged to contribute on a global and local scale. Science at large would benefit from their fresh new views.

Over the decades he has founded, headed, developed and taught (at) many scientific institutes, societies, policies, university courses, primary schools and initiatives both in Ghana and internationally. This sounds like a lot, which it is. He was the first to set up a national Computer Science Centre in ’72.

And one of his latest involvements was in setting up an institute in Ghana at which students from all over Africa could study for their Master’s degree in Mathematical Sciences for free (AIMS Ghana). For all this work he won a matching overwhelming list of awards.


Prof. Allotey and I going for a stroll in Amsterdam

I met the Professor for the first time in Ghana in 2013. I was traveling around the country for a film I was making about science in Ghana.

That moment I was staying at a guesthouse in Accra. We had our first phone conversation shortly after my arrival, and we found out he literally lived around the corner from where I was staying. We spoke briefly and decided to be in touch soon. The Professor seemed very busy, and it also seemed lucky I’d catch him in Ghana at all. The next day a car pulled up in front of the big black gate of the guest house. The guard informed me that a guest had arrived for me. To my surprise a small man, who you could tell was not the youngest but who had an incredible energy, came walking onto the courtyard.

Modest, but determined. At last we met in person. I was totally surprised as I hadn’t thought an important, busy person like him would show up like that, not without setting a meeting. A bit caught off guard, and in awe, I observed how he took a good look at the place he just arrived at. And he decided to walk inside, where I showed him to the living room for a more in depth introductory conversation. He decided it would be very fine for me to interview him.

The next day a car picked me up to drive me to Prof.’s house, which, as it turned out, was actually located right around the corner from my guesthouse. We recorded an interview together on his front porch, in the beautiful Ghanaian sunlight. Patiently seated, taking in the situation: me setting up my camera, audio, reflector. Enthusiastically he engaged with me and my questions.

His enthusiasm and encouraging support have ultimately led us to premiering the film together, both in Amsterdam and Accra in 2015.


He is one of those rare people who would go that extra mile because they believe in something or someone. No matter what status difference involved. And I feel that should be celebrated and appreciated. This great mentor will be missed.


After talk at premiere of Multiverse Ghana in Accra




After talk Multiverse Ghana premiere in Amsterdam

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