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Stephen Hawking meets Nelson Mandela for AIMS

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Above: Professor Stephen Hawking met South Africa’s former president, Nelson Mandela, in Houghton, Johannesburg, today. From left to right are Stephen Hawking, Neil Turok, Nelson Mandela, Pik Botha and David Block. Photograph by Dr Robert Groess.

Professor Stephen Hawking today met with South Africa’s former president Nelson Mandela to discuss the NextEinstein initiative — part of Neil Turok’s TED Prize wish to develop math and science talent all over Africa.

The NextEinstein initiative builds on the success of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, AIMS, a pan-African centrer for postgraduate training and research, based in Muizenberg, Cape Town. AIMS has so far graduated 160 young scientists from 30 African countries; 53 students, including 20 women, are currently enrolled.

The Next Einstein plan is to create many AIMS centres all over Africa. The second AIMS centre opens in Abuja, Nigeria, in July and additional centres are planned in Ghana, Uganda, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Botswana, Rwanda and Sudan.

Upon meeting Mr Mandela, Professor Hawking said, “I am very pleased to meet you. I admire how you managed to find a peaceful solution to a situation that seemed doomed to disaster. It was one of the great achievements of the twentieth century. If only the Israelis and the Palestinians could do the same.”

In turn, Mr Mandela expressed a great interest in AIMS and a desire to visit the centre.

Professor Hawking leaves tonight for Cape Town to participate in a workshop on cosmology at the new National Institute for Theoretical Physics at Stellenbosch.

Read the full press release here >>

Learn more about NextEinstein.org >>Photo Caption: The world’s most famous scientist, Professor Stephen Hawking, met former President Nelson Mandela in Houghton today. Photographed from left to right are Professor Stephen Hawking, Professor Neil Turok, Nelson Mandela, Pik Botha and Professor David Block. Photograph by Dr Robert Groess.

The world’s most famous scientist, Professor Stephen Hawking, today met with former President Nelson Mandela for the first time.

Professor Hawking is in South Africa to launch the Next Einstein initiative, to discover and nurture maths and science talent all over Africa. The initiative builds on the success of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, AIMS, a pan-African centre for postgraduate training and research, based in Muizenberg, Cape Town. AIMS has so far graduated 160 young scientists from 30 African countries and an additional 53 students, including 20 women, are currently completing the programme.

The Next Einstein plan is to create many AIMS centres, all over Africa. The second AIMS centre opens in Abuja, Nigeria, in July and additional centres are planned in Ghana, Uganda, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Botswana, Rwanda and Sudan.

Accompanying Professor Hawking were David Block, Professor of Applied Mathematics at the Witwatersrand University, Pik Botha, former cabinet Minister in the government led by President Mandela, and Neil Turok, founder of the AIMS institute and Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Cambridge.

Upon meeting Mr Mandela, Professor Hawking said, “I am very pleased to meet you. I admire how you managed to find a peaceful solution to a situation that seemed doomed to disaster. It was one of the great achievements of the twentieth century. If only the Israelis and the Palestinians could do the same.”

Mr Mandela responded by welcoming Professor Hawking and the other visitors, expressing a great interest in AIMS and a desire to visit the centre. The meeting was hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, in Houghton, Johannesburg. At the end of the meeting, Professor Hawking said “It was wonderful to meet you.”

Professor Hawking leaves tonight for Cape Town to participate in a workshop on cosmology at the new National Institute for Theoretical Physics at Stellenbosch. He returns to Cambridge over the weekend.