The Author of popular Physics Textbook (Senior Secondary Physics) The book that has simplified the teaching and understanding of physics for many Nigerians will be 77 years old come October 30th 2018.
Pius Nwankwo was born on the 30th October, 1941 to the humble family of Daniel Ndubisi Okeke and the Beatrice Ugogbe Okeke, both from Oraukwu in Idemili Local Government Area of Anambara State.The father Mr. Daniel Okeke was a brick layer and exceptionally hardworking and extremely kind and honest, while the mother was a petty trader, extremely intelligent, a leader and pace setter for others.
Pius Nwankwo Okeke attended a primary school in Oraukwu where he obtained his first school leaving certificate. His most favourite’s subject in school was mathematics where he always excelled. But initially he was not interested in other subjects as a result he ended up attending a private secondary school Washington memorial Grammar school 1957- 1962 where he had no opportunity to offer physics and chemistry .
Pius Nwankwo Okeke felt that his ambition to be a scientist was thwarted he therefore went to Lagos and attended Emergency science school Lagos where he did all the science subjects at O level GCE and then proceeded to A level GCE and got distinction in Pure and Applied Mathematics and Physics. He was offered admission to study physics in 1965 at the University of Lagos, Nigeria.
In class the young P.N. Okeke was the best student not only in the department but the faculty of science. He therefore won the faculty scholarship to enable him complete his BSc and proceed to a PhD any part of the world.
Fate has its way, the Nigerian Civil War disrupted Pius Nwankwo Okeke’s plans though. He was forced to transfer to the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Nigeria where he completed his BSc degree second class honors upper division in Physics in 1971 and was appointed a Junior Research Fellow of the University of Nigeria in 1972.
Pius Nwankwo. Okeke was the first person to receive a PhD degree of the University of Nigeria in 1975.
He carried out his Postdoctoral research in the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom in 1979 under the supervision of very distinguished Astronomer Professor M.J. Rees. He rose to the rank of a professor and leader of Space Research Centre University of Nigeria in 1989.
He tackled many problems in Astronomy and collaborated with researchers world wide to become a distinguished international scholar. This led to series of International Awards that include: Visiting Scientist Harvard Smithsonian Centre USA, 1997, Senior Research Fellow National Astronomical Observatory, Tokyo, Japan 1993, Visiting Scientist, University of Tuebingen, Germany 1995; Visiting Professor South African Astronomical Observatory 1996; External Board Member , South African National Science Foundation 1994-2000.
Prof. P. N .Okeke is a Fellow of Royal Astronomical Society, London; Fellow of Nigerian Academy of Science, Fellow of Nigerian Institute of Physics, Fellow of Planetary and Radio Science, Fellow of IAA, and United Nations Consultant in Space Science in Africa,
In the course of his dedicated research, he made the following outstanding discoveries: Discovery of a new eclipsing cataclysmic variable; Prediction of observational consequences of mini black hole; Proposed a Nuclear Beam Model in Radio Sources. Contributed immensely in Astrophysical Spectral Research, Conducted massive postgraduate training for Nigerian Space Science scholars using facilities at home and abroad
Prof. P.N. Okeke is the African recipient of the UN/NASA award in 2007 for his tremendous contributions in the development of Astronomy in Africa.
In the University of Nigeria, Prof. P.N. Okeke proved to be a sound administrator: He served as the Head of Dept of Physics & Astronomy between 1988 – 1992 and 1996 -1997, Dean of Faculty of Physical Sciences, 1999 to 2002; Chairman, Sports Council, Chairman ICT, and Chairman Strategic Contact Committee.
Prof. Okeke has left an indelible footprint in the building of human resources in academics. He has produced over 20 Ph.Ds and 30 M.Scs in Space Science and he is still currently supervising another 5 Ph.D students.
Over 6 of his students are now professors, heading Space Research programs in other Nigeria Universities. About 3/4 of Astronomers in Nigeria are the products of Prof. Okeke
Prof.Okeke is efficiently directing CBSS and is setting up at its permanent site at Nsukka, one of the largest Radio Telescope in Africa –a 25 metre Radio Telescope in collaboration with China. The Centre has also recently been upgraded to African Regional Centre for Space Weather Research.
Through the efforts of P. N. Okeke, CBSS has entered into collaborative research with over 20 universities and several research institutes including the National Meteorological Agency, (NIMET). Excellent work in the areas of Atmospheric Science and Astronomy is going on through out the country.
Prof. Okeke successfully set up a network of twenty automatic weather stations operating through wireless telemetary for monitoring Nigerian Climate as well as studying Radio Propagation in Nigeria
Prof. P.N. Okeke signed MOU with several countries for various research programs and over 50 scientists from Nigeria have received training under these MOUs : National Astronomical Observatory(NAO), Japan , South African Astronomical Observatory, Cape Town, HartRAO Observatory, S. Africa, Harvard Smithsonian Centre, USA, University of Delaware, USA, Altteche Technology, China. And Urumqi Radio Astronomy Observatory, China.
Professor Okeke has written 15 textbooks in Physics and Astronomy at both secondary and tertiary levels. These books are today the most popular in Nigeria and some African countries.
Based on Professor Okeke’s tremendous achievements and his meritorious Service to the University of Nigeria and humanity, the University made him Professor Emeritus of the University of Nigeria.
Let us celebrate this icon and wish him happy birthday!
Credit: naijatalk4u, wikipedia.com, Google.com