Joseph Albert Mokoena
Joseph Albert Mokoena was born in Johannesburg in 1919. A passionate mathematician, Joseph Albert Mokoena had a natural aptitude for maths, which he displayed from a young age. Later in his life, as a mathematics lecturer, Joseph Albert Mokoena would work to develop this same commitment in young students across the African continent.
Joseph Albert Mokoena first displayed his academic brilliance in school, at St Peter's Secondary School, where he set several scholastic records at junior and senior level. He went on to do his BSc degree at the famous Fort Hare University College, graduating with distinction in maths and physics.
This was the beginning of a long period of study, which saw Mokoena complete a BSc Honours at Wits University, a first-class MSc with distinction at the University of South Africa and a PhD in maths, also through Wits.
Although Mokoena was elected to the executive committee of the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League and later, the national executive of the ANC, he refrained from active politics.
In 1950, Mokoena was awarded a mathematics research fellowship from Brown University in the USA, where he worked with colleagues from Canada's McGill University.
Mokoena was equally passionate about maths as he was about Africa. He was keen to help develop the continent and supported newly-independent African states by taking up lecturing posts. After Fort Hare University in the Eastern Cape, these included stints in the recently-liberated Ghana in 1957, Nigeria in 1960, Zimbabwe in 1963 and Zambia in 1965.
Mokoena passed away tragically 4 years later, at the age of 49, after sustaining injuries in a car accident in Lusaka.
He was regarded as one of the continent's most brilliant academics and a great mathematician, who never gave up on his dream to help develop Africa through an appreciation of mathematics.
He was posthumously awarded the South African Order of Ikhamanga Gold in 2004 for his contribution to the field of mathematics.