Mohamed H.A. Hassan, a distinguished and highly influential Sudanese advocate for science in the South, has been elected to serve as the sixth president of The World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries.
Hassan was TWAS's founding executive director and served 26 years in that role, establishing a reputation as a scholar and diplomat who moved effectively at every level of the global research, education and policy communities.
"I am greatly honoured and privileged to be given the opportunity to serve TWAS in a new and more challenging capacity," Hassan said after his election. "I am grateful to the TWAS Council and membership for the faith and confidence they have placed in me and I hope to live up to their expectations – and maybe exceed them a little bit."
Beginning 1 January 2019, he will succeed current TWAS President Bai Chunli of China, who took office in 2013 and served two three-year terms. Under changes newly approved by the TWAS Council, the Academy president and Council members will now serve single four-year terms.
Hassan praised Bai for serving with "dedication, distinction and effectiveness" as TWAS president. Bai oversaw a period of "substantial expansion in its membership and programmes", he added, and helped to achieve significant growth in China's contributions to TWAS and its programmes to build science capacity in the developing world.
Hassan is currently president of the Sudanese National Academy of Sciences. He was recommended for his new post by a high-level nominations committee appointed by the TWAS Council and was elected without opposition by a vote of Academy members attending the 28th TWAS General Meeting in Trieste, Italy. In addition to electing Hassan, the membership elected a new Council (see below) that represents the five regions of the developing world.
Brazilian physicist Luiz Davidovich, the president of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, was elected to serve as TWAS secretary general.
Chinese engineer Yang Wei, president of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) from 2013 until this year, will serve as TWAS treasurer. Yang also served as president of Zhejiang University from 2002-2013.
Mohamed Hassan was an early-career Sudanese mathematician when Abdus Salam recruited him to come to the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste. In 1983, Salam asked him to help organize the foundation meeting that would establish TWAS – originally the Third World Academy of Sciences. In the vision of Salam and an elite group of TWAS's Founding Fellows, the Academy would create a community for scientists from the developing world who were often isolated in their home countries; at the same time, it would advocate the idea that even the poorest nations could build strength and prosperity by making investments and policy commitments to science, engineering and technology for development.
Hassan recalled that era in an interview filmed in 2013 – "Mohamed Hassan: The Early Years of TWAS".
"There was no mechanism to recognize the best and most accomplished scientists living and working in the developing world," he told Italian filmmaker Nicole Leghissa. "The need was very clear to everybody.... Having a forum that can mobilize the best brains that the developing world has was an immediate and very urgent need."
At the recommendation of Salam, TWAS Founding Fellows appointed Hassan to be TWAS's first executive director in 1985, and in that post, Hassan was a close adviser to Salam and manager of the Academy's day-to-day operations. He led TWAS through the uncertain period following Salam's death in 1996, then used his experience and diplomatic skill to build worldwide networks with far-reaching impact.
It was a time of rapid and historic transformation driven by the end of the Cold War, the rise of personal computers, mobile phones and the Internet, and accelerating economic growth. These changes reached from the capitals of the developed world to the most remote towns and villages of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Nations as diverse as Brazil, China, India and South Africa pursued intensive efforts to drive economic development with research and science education – and the positive results were noted by other science- and technology-lagging nations.
Working closely with a succession of distinguished TWAS presidents, Hassan helped to build highly productive partnerships with many of those nations, and the relationships remain the anchors for a network that spans the globe. He built productive partnerships with the government of Italy and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), which have provided key funding to the Academy and its programmes across many years. In addition, an endowment fund was established to solidify TWAS's financial security.
After retiring as executive director in 2011, Hassan continued to serve as TWAS treasurer until the end of 2015.
In July 2018, Hassan was appointed by Pope Francis to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences based at the Vatican in Rome, Italy. The Pontifical Academy is one of the world's oldest and most august scientific bodies, with roots dating to the early 17th century. Under Academy statutes, members receive lifetime appointments "on the basis of their eminent original scientific studies and of their acknowledged moral personality, without any ethnical or religious discrimination."
In 2016, then-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named him to chair the Governing Council of the new Technology Bank for Least-Developed Countries.
He formerly served as president of the African Academy of Sciences, founding president of the Network of African Science Academies and president of the InterAcademy Partnership, an associated partner of TWAS; and as chairman of the Council of the United Nations University.
He is a member of several merit-based academies and has served on the board of many organisations. He has won numerous awards, including the TWAS-Abdul Salam Medal and the G77 Achievement Award.
Edward W. Lempinen
TWAS COUNCIL 2019-2021
President: HASSAN Mohamed H.A. (Sudan)
Immediate Past President: BAI Chunli (China)
(Africa): TOURE Moctar (Senegal)*
(Arab Region): HAMDAN Mohammed (Jordan)*
(Central and South Asia): BALASUBRAMANIAN Dorairajan (India)
(East and Southeast Asia): YUSOFF Khatijah M. (Malaysia)*
(Latin America and Caribbean): LIMONTA-VIDAL Manuel (Cuba)*
Secretary General: DAVIDOVICH Luiz (Brazil)
Treasurer: Yang Wei (China)
Africa: DIAB Roseanne (South Africa)
Arab Region: TAWFIK Abdel Nasser (Egypt)*
Central and South Asia: SHAMSHER ALI Mohammad (Bangladesh)
East and Southeast Asia: UPRETI Bishal Nath (Nepal)*
Latin America and Caribbean: GUPTA Mahabir Prashad (Panama)*
Ex-officio: ICTP Director, QUEVEDO Fernando (Guatemala)