Samuel Okoye

Samuel Okoye, August 1979
Credit: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives,
John Irwin Slide Collection

Low res image used with permission

Occupation: Astrophysicist

Year born: 1939

Research Areas: Radio Astronomy, Galaxies, Crab Nebula


"…survival for all... is only meaningful if it carries with it the connotation of an existence that provides opportunities for all the inhabitants of the earth to live in dignity in an environment which allows for self-fulfilment and creativity"

Source: World at the Crossroads: Towards a Sustainable, Equitable and Liveable World (Okoye, 1994)


Early Life

Samuel was born in Umuahia, Nigeria. His father died when he was ten years old. Samuel won a scholarship to study physics at University College in Ibadan, Nigeria. The university was linked to the University of London, UK. He got a paid fellowship to study for his PhD in astrophysics at the University of Cambridge, UK.

Career Highlights

In 2005 Samuel became the first Black African to get a PhD in radio astronomy. During his PhD he carried out important studies on the Crab Nebula. These studies looked at the fine detail of the nebula, and found a bright source at its centre. This turned out to be a pulsar, a rapidly rotating neutron star. Samuel’s PhD supervisor got a Nobel Prize for the discovery. He referenced the work of Samuel in his acceptance speech. After his PhD Samuel returned to Nigeria to lecture at the University of Ibadan. He then moved to the University of Nigeria where he spent the rest of his career. He taught here during the Nigerian civil war. Samuel served on the council for Pugwash International Conferences on Science and World Affairs. Pugwash aims to reduce the danger of armed conflict, especially the use of nuclear weapons. Samuel was an expert in astrophysics and in promoting science in developing countries. He was a consultant to the United Nations on science and technology in developing countries. He served the Nigerian government in various roles during his career. This included at the Nigerian High Commission in London, UK. Samuel became a British citizen in 2005.


In 1972 Samuel founded the Space Research Centre at the University of Nigeria. He published a paper on the potential future of a Nigerian Space Programme. Samuel edited books about the future of science in Nigeria, and about creating a sustainable and fair world.

Other Interests

Samuel dedicated much of his life to Nigeria. He was active in ensuring a sustainable energy future for the country. He was an excellent science communicator and a science columnist for The Guardian Nigeria.