Commemoration of Félix Malu wa Kalenga

Vanderlei Bagnato

Professor Félix Malu wa Kalenga died in April 2011 at the age of 74 years. He was born on September 1936 in Boma, province of Congo. From the very beginning he was a brilliant student and concluded his undergraduate studies in 1960, going to the United States and getting his Master’s of Science from the University of California, Berkley in 1963. From 1970 to 2000 he occupied the position of professor at Faculté Polytechnique de l’Université de Kinshasa and turned into an emeritus professor after 2000. He was a scientist in the field of Nuclear Physics, and principle player on the project for the construction of the nuclear reactor Mark II for the Centre Régional d’Études Nucléaires de Kinshasa. He was a great enthusiast for the development and use of atomic energy in Africa. He was also a spokesman for new sources of renewable energy, producing one of the first studies about the energy demand for the development of Africa. 

He published many papers, mainly on the promotion for the use of nuclear energy for progress and not destruction. He was also quite active in the investigation of nuclear forces. He received many prizes in recognition of his work, Silver medal or the Civic Merit Africa, and Gold Medal for Scientific Achievement, also from Africa. Chevalier de la Ordre de la Francophonie et du Dialogue des Cultures, officer de l’Ordre National du Léopard, and he also received a prize from the Global Energy Society for Eradication of Poverty and Hunger that was given in Ohio, USA. He was one of the founding members of the Third World Academy of Science (TWAS), based in Trieste, Italy.

He occupied many positions in Africa, including the General Commission for Atomic Energy.

A few things call my attention in his work. In 1965 he wrote a text about the necessity to combine science, technology and social problems, or social needs, for the success and solutions for the continent of Africa. He also wrote about the paradigm of quantum physics and biological science in the late 1980s. He wrote a book in 1999 called Science and Technology in Africa, in French, with a chapter that discussed Science for the Development of Africa, the Big Challenge.

For him, Africa was not a land for exploration only, but also a continent full of opportunities, and contributions to humanity. With the correct attitude and investment in science, the problems of Africa could naturally be solved, leaving behind a good balance of benefits for the whole world. He was proud of being a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences since 1983, and today the Pontifical Academy of Sciences is proud to pay a small tribute to a good scientist and a great man, Félix Malu wa Kalenga. 

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