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African Origins of Science & Math


This annotated bibliography is a compilation of books, papers and articles that can provide some insight into the accomplishments of early Africans and African-Americans in science and mathematics.

 It can be utilized for research purposes or just to expand the general reader's consciousness on the subject matter. It is by no means exhaustive or all inclusive. It merely reflects some of the materials that I have utilized in my own research.

1. Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern, ed. by Ivan VanSertima, Transaction Books, New Brunswick, NJ, 1983

A compilation of very thoroughly researched papers that documents Africa's contributions to astronomy, agriculture, architecture, engineering, aeronautics, mathematics, medicine, metallurgy, physics and writing systems. Also included in this text are articles detailing the African-American's contributions to science and invention. Some of the papers that are worth special mention are John Pappademos' "An Outline of Africa's Role in the History of Physics", Dr. Charles Finch's "The African Background of Medical Science", "Steel Making in Ancient Africa" by Debra Shore, "The Pyramids: Ancient Showcase of African Science and Technology" by Beatrice Lumpkin and John Henrik Clarke's "Lewis Latimer: Bringer of the Light".

2. Africa Counts, Claudia Zaslavsky, Prindle, Weber, and Schmidt, New Your, 1973

This is a pioneering work that is well written and documented. It details the early African mathematical practices found almost throughout Africa. A must reading for those interested in the African origins of mathematics.

3. Stolen Legacy, George G. M. James, Julian Richardson Associates, San Francisco, 1976

In this scholarly book, Professor James declares that Greek philosophy is a misnomer. He thoroughly documents the African origins of Grecian civilization and the study of Greek philosophers and mathematicians in Africa. Dr. James also puts forth an hypothesis based on the ancient Kemetic creation story as a metaphorical scientific explanation for the creation of the universe.

4. Journal of African Civilizations, Vol. 4, No. 1, ed. by Ivan VanSertima, Transaction Books, New Burnswick, NJ, 1982

This special issue of the scholarly journal edited by Dr. VanSertima deals exclusively with the African and African-American contributions to science and invention.

5. The African Origins of Civilization, Cheikh Anta Diop, Lawrence Hill Press, New York, 1974

Here we have the most thorough documentation of the African ethnicity of the ancient people who developed the mathematics and sciences upon which modern civilization is based (Ethiopians, so-called Egyptians, Nubians, Sudanese, Colchis, etc.). Excellent documentation regarding the origins of the scholarship of Greek philosophers, i.e., Herodotus, Diodorus, Plato, Plutarch, et. al.

6. An Introduction to the History of Mathematics, Howard Eves, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York, 3rd ed., 1969; History of Mathematics, Arthur Gittleman, Charles E. Merrill Press, Columbus, Ohio, 1975.

These two books are primarily devoted to the origin of mathematics in the ancient world, followed by subsequent European developments based upon these model: Kemetic number system, Ahmose (Rhind) Papyri, African surveyors, 3-4-5 triangle, truncated pyramid (seal of the US dollar bill), Kemetic algebra, etc.

7. The Pyramids, Ahmed Fakhry, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 1975

This book not only describes the structure and dimensions of the three best known pyramids at Giza, but furnishes the same information in respect to at least a dozen others, including the Step Pyramid at Saqqara.

8. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, Arnold Chase, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1979

A thorough analysis of one of the ancient mathematical journal left by African mathematicians. Originally known as the Ahmose Mathematician Papyrus (Ahmose being the author), it documents the use of geometry, trigonometry, algebra (aha), arithmetic progression, proportionality, volume and area calculations, etc.

9. Mathematics in the Time of the Pharaohs, Richard Gillings, Cambridge MIT Press, 1972

Gillings thoroughly documents the extensive mathematical activity of the ancient Kemetic people. His work begins with the four basic arithmetic operations and continues with fractions, algebra, geometric and arithmetic progression, and finding areas and volumes of various geometric shapes.

10. Golden Legacy, Baylor Publishing Co. and Community Enterprise, Inc., Seattle, WA, 1983

Golden Legacy is a series of illustrated Black history magazines written in a "comic book" type format. Short biographical stories are developed around great personalities in Black history. Several volumes deals with scientists and inventors. Excellent for kindergarten and early elementary lesson planning on African-American science and mathematics.

11. A Young Genius in Old Egypt, Beatrice Lumpkin, DuSable Museum Press, Chicago, 1979

This is an excellent primer for early elementary school ages on the origins of mathematics. It tells the story of a young African growing up to become one of ancient Kemet's (Egypt's) greatest mathematicians. It is very well illustrated, also.

12. Seven Black American Scientists and Eight Black American Inventors, Robert Hayden, Addisonian Press, Reading, MA, 1970 & 1972, respectively; Black Inventors of America, McKinley Burt, Jr., National Book Co., Portland, OR, 1969

Excellent biographies on the lives of Black American scientists and inventors are detailed in these works. Each of them can easily be used to develop lessons using the "Great Personality" approach as suggested by Dr. John Henrik Clarke. Professor Burt's book goes a step further and offers a still timely analysis of how some of these Black innovator's invention tremendously affected the American and, in some instances, world industrial complex.

13. The Physicians of Pharaonic Egypt, Paul Ghalioungui, Verlan Phillip Von Zabern, Mainz, West Germany, 1983

In this work Dr. Ghaliougui provides us with a good look into the high level of development that was achieved by ancient African priest- physicians in the medical sciences. There were specialized physicians such as surgeons, veterinarians, therapists, pathologists, physicians of the eyes, stomach and teeth, etc. Dr. Ghaliougui also looks closely at the organization of the ancient medical profession and the personalities of some of the ancient priest-physicians.

14. A History of Science, George Sarton, Vol. 1, Harvard Press, Cambridge, MA, 1952

Although this volume deals with the Hellenistic sciences, it is mentioned here because chapter two is a thoroughly written exposition of the sciences of ancient Kemet. A position is taken by Sarton that the supposedly scientific activity of the ancient Kemetic people was indeed scientific and the priest-scientist of that time laid the foundation for later Greek and Wester science. "They were our first guides and our first teachers (in the sciences)", says Sarton.

15. "African Star Gazers: Why Doesn't Western Science Take Them Seriously?", Hunter H. Adams, III, Paper delivered at the 5th Annual Third World Conference, Chicago, IL, March, 1979

In this paper Mr. Adams clearly articulates the fundamental differences between the development and practice of African science and what later develops as Western science. He utilized the Dogon people West Africa and their astronomical knowledge, particularly their knowledge about the Sirius star system, to exemplify the differences. To understand the differences in the development of scientific knowledge in African and the West, this paper is highly recommended.

16. The Dawn of Astronomy, N. Lockyer, MacMillan and Co., New York, 1894

This is the most authoritative documentation on the advent of astronomy in Africa. Lockyer scholarly documents how the science of astronomy was an integral part of the ancient Kemetic people's lifeways, from religion to architecture.

17. Secrets of the Great Pyramid, Peter Tompkins, Harper & Row, New York, 1971

An intriguing but well documented look at the early scientific and mathematical investigations in the Great Pyramid of Khufu. An excellent and detailed description of the mathematics, astronomy, geodesics, and mensuration techniques developed form the configurations of the Great Pyramid. Tompkins emphatically states that the builders knew the precise circumference of the earth, the mean length of the earth's orbit, the value po pi and phi (know as the Golden Section during the recent "Age of Enlightenment" in Europe), the acceleration of Gravity, the speed of light, trigonometric values, and a host of other mathematical and scientific facts. He also offers evidence that such great Greek mathematicians and philosophers as Plato, Pythagoras, Solon, Thales, Diodorus, Herodotus, and others named Kemet as the birthplace of geometry, and the place in which many Greeks went to study.

18. Mathematics in the Making, Lancelot Hogben, Doubleday & Co., New York, 1960

This is an omnibus volume providing a thorough survey of developments in all areas of mathematics from Dynastic Kemet of the times of Newton and Gauss. Many illustrations and diagrams in color that lends themselves to lesson plans and class projects.

19. Africa: Mother of Western Civilizations, Yosef A. A. ben-Jochannan, Alkebu-lan Books, New York, 1971

20. The Healing Hand: Man and Wound in the Ancient World, Guido Majno, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1975

21. The Edwin Smith Medical Papyrus, James Breasted, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1931

An in-depth analysis of what is probably the most detailed medical book written by ancient Africans. It has an illustration of a cross-section of the head with sections of the brain identified in Mdw Ntr (so-called hieroglyphics).

22. The House of Life (Per Ankh): Magic and Medical Science in Ancient Egypt, Paul Ghalioungui, B. M. Israel Press, Amsterdam, 1973

This text is a well written treatise on the medical profession in ancient Kemet. It documents the ancient African sacerdotal medical activity in such fields as surgery, physiopathology, gynecology, obstetrics pharmacology, ophthalmology, and dentistry. Ghalioungui also deals with the application "magic" in the healing arts of ancient Kemet.

23. The Mechanical Triumph of the Ancient Egyptians, F. Barber, Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd, London, 1900

This is a good early attempt to explain the engineering and mechanical achievements of the ancient Kemetic engineers without the use of some simple machines.

24. Destruction of Black Civilization, Chancellor Williams, Third World Press, Chicago, 1974

Dr. Williams offers the reader an explanation of the often neglected aspect of African history. i.e., how African civilizations were destroyed by hostile forces from Europe and Asia. He goes further and offers a plan on ho to reverse the harmful effects of the destruction of African civilization.

25. The African Presence in Ancient America: They Came Before Columbus, Ivan VanSertima, Random House, New York, 1976

In this book Dr. VanSertima draws upon his mastery of several academic disciplines to demonstrate that African made successful voyages to the American continent before Columbus. He further proves that the earliest civilization in America was influenced by these African visitors perhaps as early as 1000 B.C. (See also Before Columbus by Dr. Samuel D. Marble, A. S. Barnes & Co., New York, 1980; The Black Discovery of America by Michael Bradley, Personal Library Publishers, Toronto, Canada, 1981; and African and the Discovery of America by Leo Wiener, Innes and Sons, Philadelphia, 1920).

26. Scared Science: The King of Pharaonic Theocracy, R. A. Schwaller deLubicz, Inner Traditions International, New York, 1982

27. The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light: Mythology, Sexuality and the Origins of Culture, William I. Thompson, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1981.

28. Black Man of the Nile and His Family, Yosef A. A. ben-Jochannan, Alkebulan Books, New York, 1981

Dr. ben-Jochannan draws upon his varied experiences, talents and academic training to bring the reader a monumental work that shows convincingly that the original Kemetic people (so-called Egyptians) were Black people. He employs a multi-disciplinary approach that can leave no doubt in the mind of honest readers that the Nile Valley is the original home of African civilization.

29. World's Greatest Men of Color, Joel A. Rogers, Vols. I & II, MacMillan Press, New York, 1973

J. A. Rogers brilliantly recounts the individual achievements of African men and women around the world. Each biography is supported by a complete bibliography. This is a rare work that demonstrates that Africans have participated in all of the major cultures of the world.

30. Africa's Gift to America, Joel A. Rogers, Helga M. Rogers (publisher), New York, 1961

This is an easy to read introduction to great African Achievements form the African continent to America. Mr. Rogers offers complete references throughout the book.

31. Wretched of the Earth, Franz Fanon, Grove Press, New York, 1968

The author, a revolutionary and brilliant psycho-analyst, expertly explores the harmful aspects of colonization from the perspective of the colonized. This work has universal applications for all oppressed people in their struggles against foreign domination.

32. Introduction to African Civilizations, John G. Jackson, University Press, New York, 1970

With painstaking objectivity, and brilliant scholarship, Prof. Jackson obliterates the picture of African being backward and contributing nothing of significance to the evolution of civilization. This work challenges all of the standard approaches to African history and provides new insights into the subject that clearly show the development of civilization in Africa. Mr. Jackson provides the reader with an abundance of documentation and references that corroborates the contention of an African origin of civilization.

33. Early Hydraulic Civilization in Egypt: A Study in Cultural Ecology, Karl Butzer, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1976

Butzer has produced an excellent primer on the early hydraulic culture of Nile Valley civilization. It is revealing in that show some of the sophisticated hydraulic techniques used by ancient Africans in the Nile Valley which propel them into civilized societies.

34. Selections from the Husia: The Sacred Wisdom of Ancient Egypt, Maulana Karenga, Kawaida Publications, Los Angeles, 1984

Dr. Karenga meaningfully selected and beautifully retranslated several books ancient scared literature that clearly illustrates the high moral and ethical lifeways of the ancient Kemetic people. The Husia also provides literary insights into Kemetic pedagogy, religion, philosophy, and human behavior. A must reading for any student who seeks a rich and clear understanding of Kemetic literature and lifeways.

35. The Sirius Mystery, Robert K. G. Temple, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1976

Robert Temple attempts to shed some light on the extraordinary astronomical knowledge of the Dogon people of Mali, West Africa. The binary star system called Sirius A and B is central to the Dogon lifeway. After doing meticulous research on the Sirius question, Temple implies that the Dogon was instructed in their wisdom by extra- terrestrial visitors from outer space.

36. The Pyramids: An Enigma Solved, Joseph Davidovits and Margie Morris, Hippocrene Books, New York, 1988

Davidovits and Morris puts forth yet another theory on the construction of the pyramids. It provides new insights into the question because old data is not rehashed. Their thesis is that the stones used as building material is a cement aggregate that were casted in place and not quarried blocks of limestone as most pyramid construction theorist suggest. The critical piece of data for their thesis is the so-called Famine Stele found on the Shele Island that, according toe Davidovits' translation, has the alchemical process for producing the aggregate.