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Article

Theodore Cohen

was born on 20 January 1908 in Tlacotalpan, Veracruz, to Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán, a medical doctor, and Pilar Beltrán Luchirí, the descendant of Ignacio María Luchichí, a well-known writer in the surrounding Papaloapan basin of southern Mexico. Though born into an elite family with no African ancestry, Aguirre Beltrán had a major impact on how we understand the African heritage of Mexico. In addition, he was interested in social issues, had an affinity for anarchism, and read scholars such as Georg Friedrich Hegel and Karl Marx. In 1921 he moved to Mexico City to continue his preparatory studies, and in 1927 he enrolled in medical school at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (National Autonomous University of Mexico). Having finished his thesis, “El metabolism basal en lasnefrosis” (Elemental Metabolism in Nephrosis), he graduated in 1931. He married Judith Avendaño, and they had five children.

After finishing medical school Aguirre ...

Article

Emad Abdul-Latif

Egyptian poet, critic, broadcaster, painter, and physician, was born in the al-Hanafy district in Cairo. His father, Muhammad Abu Shadi, was the head of the Egyptian Bar Association and his mother, Amina Naguib, was a poetess. He completed his primary and secondary education in Cairo and was involved in antioccupation activities during his adolescence. He joined the faculty of medicine (named Qasr al-Aini) and then traveled to London in 1912 to complete his studies in medicine at the University of London where he obtained a certificate of honor from Saint George Hospital in 1915. He married a British woman and lived with her in Egypt until her death in 1945. Following his return to Egypt in 1922, he served in many governmental posts in such places as the Ministry of Health and the Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria University. In 1946 he immigrated to the United States ...

Article

Abdul Karim Bangura

Abu Nasr Muhammad ibn al-Farakh al-Farabi, or Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Tarkhan ibn Uzalagh al-Farabi, was born in 870 c.e in Kazakhstan or Persia or Afghanistan Also known in the West as Alpharabius he is considered by many to be the greatest philosopher scientist and musicologist of his era and perhaps one of the greatest Muslim philosophers in all of history As a political philosopher al Farabi sought out answers to many of the most difficult questions facing the Islamic world during his lifetime He questioned the relations between humankind and God the role of the intermediary the influence of the divine law in private life and the limitations of the human mind He went beyond the divine law and searched for humankind s place in the universe and our relationship with nature society and the divine law He inquired about the different types of political institutions ...

Article

Jacob Emmanuel Mabe

the first African and black professor and philosopher of the European Enlightenment, was born in the coastal Ghanaian town of Axim. The background of his travel to Europe can only be speculated about. It is only certain that Amo was given over to Herzog Anton Ulrich von Wolfenbuettel-Braunschweig in 1707 as a slave of the Dutch West Indies Company. At that time he could have been eight years old, because he was baptized on 29 July 1708 in Braunschweig. In addition to German, Amo could speak Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, Dutch, and English.

In 1727, Amo entered the University of Halle, where he studied philosophy and law. On 28 November 1729, he presented his first disputation, De jure maurorum in Europa (On the Rights of Black Peoples in Europe which unfortunately remains lost In this work Amo acts as an advocate of the equality of all people ...

Article

Abu al-Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Rushd, more commonly known as Averroës, was born in Córdoba, Spain. His father, a judge in Córdoba, instructed him in Muslim jurisprudence. In his native city he also studied theology, philosophy, and mathematics under the Arab philosopher Ibn Tufayl and medicine under the Arab physician Avenzoar. Averroës was appointed judge in Seville in 1169 and in Córdoba in 1171; in 1182 he became chief physician to Abu Yaqub Yusuf, the Almohad caliph of Morocco and Muslim Spain. Averroës's view that reason takes precedence over religion led to his being exiled in 1195 by Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur; he was restored to favor shortly before his death.

Averroës held that metaphysical truths can be expressed in two ways: through philosophy, as represented by the views of Aristotle and through religion which is truth presented in a ...

Article

James McCarthy

Scottish explorer, naturalist, surgeon, and philologist who opened up the Niger region to European trade and influence, was born in Kirkwall, Scotland, the eldest son of a Royal Navy captain, John Baikie. He was educated for a time at Kirkwall Grammar School in Orkney, but mainly privately, in company with his cousins. He gained a medical degree from Edinburgh University, where he also developed his interest in natural history. In 1848, together with Robert Heddie, he wrote the first part of a published study of the natural history of Orkney, Historia naturalis Orcadensis. In the same year he joined the Royal Navy as an assistant surgeon, serving on no less than five different ships in the Mediterranean before being appointed in the same capacity to Haslar Hospital, Portsmouth, from 1851 to 1854. It was from here in 1854 that through the patronage of the influential Sir Roderick ...

Article

Daniel Richter

who made seminal contributions to Brazilian national thought primarily through posthumous publications, was born in 1864 in the Brazilian capital of Rio de Janeiro, and was abandoned by his mother shortly after birth. Castro’s best-known writings addressed issues of race, gender, and education during the transition from monarchy to republic in the 1880s.

Castro’s mother was likely a slave, and she may have sought to attain her son’s freedom by abandoning him. Leaving behind young children was a rare practice among slaves in Brazil prior to the Law of the Free Womb, passed in 1871 The foundling Castro was taken in and raised by Manoel da Costa Paes a Portuguese businessman and Rio resident Paes arranged for Castro s formal education which included a scholarship for poor students at Rio s elite secondary school Colégio Pedro II After the completion of his secondary studies Castro enrolled at the Faculdade ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

North African translator, was born near Tunis in the early eleventh century (scholars estimate between 1010 and 1015). Constantinus Africanus (Constantine the African) was famed for introducing many principles of Arab medicine and scientific enquiry to the northern shores of the Mediterranean. The first known biographies of Constantinus Africanus were written and modified by Christian monks from the monastery of Monte Cassino. This occurred several decades after his death. As such, much of the information on the life of Constantinus must be seen trough the lens of these monastic sources. As a convert from Islam to Christianity, he was held up not only as a rare success of conversion but as an example of the intellectual accomplishments of Monte Cassino.

The writings of Petrus Diaconus a monk at Monte Cassino who wrote one of the earliest biographies claimed that Constantinus Africanus was born in Carthage and traveled throughout the ...

Article

Molefi Kete Asante

major Senegalese scholar in the fields of anthropology, history, and physics, was born in the village of Keitou, Senegal, not far from the town of Diourbel in the interior of Senegal on 29 December 1923 By all accounts as a youth he was a serious student and an avid participant in the sports of the village Yet he was always searching to reach higher goals and when the opportunity came for him to study in Dakar and St Louis he quickly took the chance to prove himself He was an extraordinary student noticed by all of his classmates and teachers as someone who could make an enormous contribution to knowledge At an early age Diop had shown a keen mind an argumentative streak and an ability to make logical arguments Diop like most Senegalese children had to learn Islamic traditions as well as Western ones His ancestors and larger ...

Article

Françoise Vergès

writer, psychiatrist, and activist, was born on 20 July 1925 at Fort de France Martinique at the time a French colony The descendant of a slave of African origins Fanon was the fifth of eight children His parents who were of mixed heritage belonged to the urban middle class His father Félix Casimir Fanon worked in the French customs Eléanore Médélice his mother was a shopkeeper She was very proud of her Alsatian roots on an island where the hierarchy of color was very strong Both parents discouraged their children from speaking Creole and encouraged them to integrate into French culture Fanon studied at the elitist Lycée Schoelcher where he had Aimé Césaire as one of his teachers At eighteen Fanon joined the Free French army and was sent for army training to Algeria Fanon became disillusioned with the cause of freeing Europe from Nazism and wrote to his ...

Article

David Alan Rego

was born in Glasgow, Scotland, at St. Mary’s Hospital for Women, the same institution where his Jamaican-born mother was pursuing studies as a nurse-midwife. Upon completion of her studies in 1967, Carmen Fenton returned to Jamaica with her young son Kevin, reuniting with her husband, Sydney, a high school chemistry teacher and later principal at Kingston’s Excelsior High School. Kevin’s siblings are Peter, a physician; Kim, a mathematics lecturer; and Keisha, a business-woman.

Kevin Fenton attended high school at Wolmer’s Boys School in Kingston, Jamaica. After graduating from Wolmer’s, he enrolled at the University of the West Indies (UWI) as a computer science major, only to transfer to the Faculty of Medicine in 1985. He was elected class president in 1985 and 1986, and in 1987 he was elected vice president of the UWI Medical Student’s Association. Following graduation with honors from medical school in 1990 ...

Article

Bahru Zewde

Ethiopian intellectual and reformer, was born in Adwa (northern Ethiopia) on 30 July 1886 Some three years later he lost his father at the battle Metemma between Ethiopia and Mahdist Sudan that claimed the life of Emperor Yohannes IV That fateful event created a political vacuum in northern Ethiopia into which the Italians who were hovering around the port of Massawa stepped with alacrity At the same time the emperor s core province Tegray fell into disarray At the tender age of seven Gebre Heywet joined the exodus of Tegrayans into the adjoining and relatively peaceful Italian colony of Eritrea He spent some years at the Swedish Mission in Menkullu on the mainland off the port of Massawa It was while visiting Massawa that he boarded one of the ships which took him to Austria where he was adopted by a family and acquired a medical degree as well ...

Article

Leila Kamali

Historian, editor, and political activist born on 10 December 1921 near Johannesburg, the child of Latvian Jews. Hirson was educated at Hebrew school in Johannesburg, and studied mathematics at the University of Witwatersrand, where he later worked as a physicist. In 1940 he joined the left‐wing Hashomer Hatzair, subsequently becoming a member of various Trotskyist groups. Between 1944 and 1946 he was a political organizer for the Workers' International League.

Hirson participated in setting up black trade unions, in extremely difficult conditions created by the Suppression of Communism Act. He became involved in the Non‐European Unity Movement, and in the late 1950s joined the Congress of Democrats, the white arm of the ANC‐led Congress Alliance.

After the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 Hirson and his colleagues highly critical of the Congress Alliance s leadership and policies organized the National Committee for Liberation which advocated sabotage as a substitute for peaceful ...

Article

Hypatia  

Michael A. B. Deakin

Alexandrian astronomer, mathematician, and philosopher, was the first woman mathematician of whose life and work we have reasonably detailed and secure knowledge. She was active as a public figure, taking a leading part in the civic affairs of Alexandria and also delivering popular lectures on philosophy: a Neoplatonist philosophy heavily influenced by mathematics. She also taught students the intricacies of technical mathematics and astronomy. Her public profile alone was probably distinguished enough to earn her a place in history, but this has been cemented by the lurid nature of her death. She died in 415, murdered by a crowd of Christian zealots who seized her, stripped her, and proceeded to dismember her and to burn her mangled corpse. Undoubtedly this further circumstance has served to keep her name alive.

Hypatia was the daughter of the mathematician Theon and taught both mathematics and philosophy in the then Greek city of Alexandria ...

Article

Stephen Cory

North African philosopher and physician who worked in the court of the North African Almohad dynasty, which ruled North Africa and Islamic Spain from the mid-twelfth century through the early thirteenth century. Ibn Tufayl was probably born in the city of Guadix in southern Spain during the second decade of the twelfth century. His full name was Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Malik ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Tufayl al-Qaysi. The exact date of his birth is unknown, and very little is known about his family background or childhood. A supporter and friend of the philosopher Ibn Rushd (Averroes), Ibn Tufayl is best known as the author of Hayy ibn Yaqzan a philosophical tale about a man raised on a desert island The story was later translated into Latin Dutch and English among other languages It is thought to have influenced such philosophers and writers as Daniel Defoe John ...

Article

Joab Eichenberg-Eilon

Jewish neo-Platonic philosopher active in Egypt, was born in Qayrawan (present-day Tunisia). Other forms of his name are Yitzhaq ben Shelomo ha Yisraeli, Ishaq al-Israʿili, Abu Yaʿqub Ishaq ibn Sulaiman al-Israʿili, Isaac Judaeus, and Isaac Israeli the elder. He was a predecessor of Solomon Ben Judah Ibn Gabirol, Moses ben Jacob ibn Ezra, and the early kabbalists of the Geronese school. The originator of the emanation theory (Atziluth) in Jewish thought, he is also known for his theory of prophecy in relation to philosophy.

He was the physician of the founder of the Fatimid dynasty, Caliph ʿAbd Allah al-Mahdi Billah; and many of his medical books, written originally in Arabic, were translated into Latin, Spanish, and Hebrew and used in medical education. They include Kitab al Hummayat, on fevers; Kitab al adwiya al mufrada wa al aghdhiya (Latin Diaetae universales et particulares; Hebrew Tivʾei haMezonoth ...

Article

Robert Fay

Louis Leakey was born in Kabete, Kenya, to British missionaries working in colonial Kenya. Even before he received his doctorate in anthropology from the University of Cambridge in England, Leakey was convinced that human evolution began in Africa, not in Asia as was commonly believed among his contemporaries. To prove his theory, Leakey focused his archaeological research on expeditions to Olduvai, a river gorge in Tanganyika (now Tanzania). He found important fossils and Stone Age tools, but until 1959 Leakey had not found definitive evidence that Africa was the cradle of human evolution.

On an expedition to Olduvai in 1959, his wife, Mary Douglas Leakey, with whom he had worked since 1933, discovered the partial remains of a 1.75-million-year-old fossil hominid. Louis Leakey classified it as Zinjanthropus (later classified as Australopithecus boisei). From 1960 to 1963 the Leakeys unearthed other important remains including another fossil hominid ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

physical anthropologist and archaeologist who discovered evidence of early human life in the Rift Valley of East Africa, was born Mary Douglas Nicol on 6 February 1913 in London, England. Her father was the painter Erskine Edward Nicol and her mother was Cecilia Marion (née Frere) Nicol. During Mary’s childhood, her family moved around a great deal. Erskine Nicol painted various portraits and subjects in England, France, Italy, Egypt, and elsewhere. Mary’s prolonged sojourns in southern France provided her with the chance to develop a fluent command of French. While she enjoyed greatly her talks and walks with her father, she found her mother’s Catholic faith stultifying even as she developed some friendships with individual priests. Her childhood came to a sudden end in the spring of 1926 when her father passed away from cancer Mary s mother decided to place her daughter in a Catholic convent but ...

Article

Mary Leakey’s deep interest in the study of prehistory began at the age of eleven, when she viewed cave paintings of the Dordogne in southern France. Although she later took courses in anthropology and geology at University College, London, and participated in excavations in England, she never earned a degree. In 1933 paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey asked her to illustrate a book he was writing. The two fell in love, married in 1936, and formed one of the most famous and successful scientific collaborations of the twentieth century.

Louis Leakey s controversial theories drove their research throughout much of their careers During the twenty years that the Leakeys spent attempting to prove that human evolution occurred in Africa and not Asia Mary developed rigorous excavation techniques that set the standard for paleoanthropological documentation and excavation A tireless worker after long days of carefully sifting the Olduvai earth for fossils ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

philosopher, physician, and rabbinical scholar, was born around 1135 in that ornament of the world the city of Córdoba in Muslim controlled al Andalus In fact Maimonides would spend his whole life in lands under Muslim control mainly in Morocco and Egypt Also known as Rambam and Ibn Maymun he and his thought were fundamentally influenced by the Islamic and mainly Arabic speaking civilization in which he lived At the same time he had a profound knowledge of Jewish literature and scriptural commentary as well as Greek thought In this way Maimonides integrated the major historical and cultural traditions of the Mediterranean the Middle East and Africa Faced with powerful attacks on Judaism from Christian and Muslim scholars such as Petrus Alfonsi and Ibn Hazm attacks based on a use of Greek reason and logic Maimonides was able to respond with his own application of reason to Jewish theology ...