As of mid-January, there is a new APS in the world. The newly formed African Physical Society held its official launching ceremony on January 12, 2010 in Dakar, Senegal. The society aims to act as a forum to bring together physicists from across the nations of Africa for collaborations and to promote the field, especially in countries that don’t have a national physical society.
Officially incorporated in Ghana, the AfPS will host scientific conferences, publish a peer reviewed journal and establish a formal means to advance the status of physicists and physics research throughout the African Union. In addition, the Society includes an African Association of Physics Students as well as awards for outstanding work by African physicists. The society held its first scientific meeting following the launching ceremony.
Francis K. A. Allotey, Consulting Director of the Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Ghana, is the interim President of the AfPS. He said that his goals were to “promote and further research in physics and its applications in order to enhance technological, economic and socio‑cultural development in Africa; to promote effective contacts and cooperation among Africa physicists; and to collaborate with other physical societies and international organizations in promoting scientific activities in Africa.”
Last December, APS president Cherry Murray sent a letter of congratulations to the society on the announcement of its formation. Sections of the letter were read at the launching ceremony.
“The African Physical Society has the potential to serve as an invaluable resource to all African Physicists and help leverage their communications, research, and collaborations,” the letter read, “In particular, we applaud the creation of the AfricanPhysical Review, which will increase the visibility of the physics research conducted throughout Africa.”
In addition the American Physical Society donated $3,000 for travel assistance so physicists from around Africa could attend the launching ceremony.
African physicists have been calling for the formation of a multinational professional society dedicated to African physicists for years. In August of 1983, thirty-four leading African physicists and mathematicians convened to form the Society of African Physicists and Mathematicians, the precursor to the AfPS. The SAPM served as the primary professional organization for practicing physicists and mathematicians.
In January of 2007, after grassroots efforts of the Society’s membership to change the focus of the organization, the SAPM resolved to reform and rename itself the African Physical Society. In November 2009, at a summit of the numerous national physical societies in Africa, the SAPM formally announced that it would become the African Physical Society. The conference in Senegal was the first official meeting of the new AfPS.
The National Society of Black Physicists has been a major supporter of the AfPS since its first inception. Charles McGruder, a professor of astronomy at Western Kentucky University and former president of the NSBP, was at the 2007 meeting in South Africa and voted for the resolution to form the AfPS.
“Right from the inception we’ve been part of it,” McGruder said, “The main goal is to increase the number of physicists, increase the number of physics students, and increase the amount of African physics, which of course means more funding…We want to develop physics because it will lead to the economic development of Africa.”
At the conference, members of the AfPS began to lay the groundwork for the formation of both the African Astronomical Society and the Optics and Photonics Society of Africa.