Dr Neil Turok born June 11, 1958 is a South African scientist. He is the Director of Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.[in Ontario (Canada).
Born in South Africa, he grew up in his parents convictions as anti-apartheid advocates. His parents were not only imprisoned for their beliefs but the family had to live as refugees. When he was six, he spent time living with his grandmother who was a Christian scientist. He came back a believer in God. His brothers made fun of him and asked him where God was . His answer was: everywhere.
Fast forward to Neil Turok’s teenage years. When he reached the age of 17, he went back to Africa and volunteered as a teacher. In that experience, his own convictions came to their own. He saw that African children are intelligent and full of potential if only they can be given a chance. What he got from this experience was a broken heart for Africa. And that is the best beginning. He was armed with the belief that African talent must be discovered, nurtured and cultivated. In one word it was empowerment towards self-sufficiency. After many years of establishing himself in theoretical physics, having been appointed Chair of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University in 1997 and the current Chair of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada, his road map was formed.
When Dr. Turok won the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) Prize in 2008, he again shared his vision for equipping Africans through the AIMS, which was established in 2003. African solutions by Africans, he said in his speech. His vision was so compelling that it produced an elite graduate program of world class rigorous academic training, after which, the students are equipped to cross swords with any academic giant in the world. In one interview, Dr. Turok shared that some critics see the endeavor as a waste of resources since only a few Africans will devote themselves to such a track, notwithstanding the full scholarship. Is this the best way to help Africa? Can math and science stop famine and ethnic cleansing? But there is wisdom in what Dr. Turok undauntingly says: if these students, though few in number, can be inspired, they will change Africa. Dr. Turok may not have the monopoly of answers but what is important is that he indeed carries an answer. He made the best use of what he had–math and science–for the good of Africa.
As Dr. Turok said, if these few Africans are inspired, they can change Africa. Indeed and beyond.