Obituary Professor Paulus Gerdes

Paulus GerdesOn 10 November 2014 Professor Paulus Gerdes passed away. Gerdes was a man with a strong sense of mission. He dedicated himself for many years to the cause of the fledgling (Peoples) Republic of Mozambique, as a teacher, as director of the education faculty and the faculty of mathematics of the Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo and as Rector of the Higher Pedagogical Institute, which under his leadership evolved into the Pedagogical University of Mozambique. From 2006 he was President of the Founding Commission of the third public university in Mozambique, the Lúrio University in Nampula.

During all that time as manager and administrator, he had an important role as senior advisor to a succession of education ministers. And he was a well-respected professor of mathematics. He published on geometry, the culture and history of mathematics. His specialty was ethno-mathematics. His office in his own Centre for Mozambican Studies and Ethno-science was full of baskets, hats and pots with African geometric designs, of which he described the mathematics.

Professor Gerdes lectured in many countries and supervised PhD students of several nationalities. He was a visiting professor at the University of Georgia from 1996 to 1998. He has served the African Mathematical Union as chair of AMUCHMA, the commission on the History of Mathematics in Africa, since 1996, and was the secretary of the Southern African Mathematical Sciences Association (SAMSA, 1991-1995).

From 2000 to 2004 he was President of the International Association for Science and Cultural Diversity. In 2000 Professor Gerdes succeeded the Brasilian Ubiratan D’Ambrosio as President of the International Group of Ethno-mathematical Studies. He was member of the International Academy for the History of Science and was elected Vice President of the African Academy of Sciences in 2005.

Professor Gerdes published over sixty books and over a hundred articles in peer-reviewed journals, and two years ago, at the commemoration of fifty years of higher education in Mozambique, he received the highest distinction price for excellence in higher education, research and teaching.

To get a feel for his personality, here is a youtube film of a TLHEC lecture by Prof Gerdes on “Embedding Aspects of African Cultures and History in Mathematics Curricula in Higher Education?”

Paulus Gerdes died too young and too suddenly. He will be sorely missed by his family, his many students and former students, his colleagues and admirers, and his friends.

Jos Walenkamp,
Lector International Cooperation, The Hague University of Applied Sciences

The ASC Library has some thirty books by Paulus Gerdes in its collection.