Lighting a Fire: Stories of 31 Eminent Tanzania Scientists is a collection of thirty-one articles about roads travelled by Tanzania men and women who, largely starting from poverty conditions, have succeeded in becoming distinguished scientists in different disciplines. As Professor Keto Mshigeni, one of the two editors of the book, observes in the introduction, the indigenous African approach to educating the youth was through sharing knowledge of customs and traditions, commonly used medicinal plants, philosophy and ethics encapsulating such knowledge in stories, as well as riddles and proverbs.
As each generation passed on to the next generation the collective knowledge and memory of its achievements, so society moved forward, renewing itself with the discovery of new knowledge and techniques to meet its needs. The eminent scientists’ stories appearing in this book assimilate many of the elements of these African traditions. Each story aims, in the way of African stories, to educate and inspire present and future generations to persevere in adversity, to be focused, and to work hard in order to achieve the goals they set for themselves. Although these stories are about Tanzanians, they are also relevant to African youths irrespective of their country; indeed, they would be relevant to all countries of the South. Young African aspiring scientists need role models and here are thirty-one of them, women and men.
The title of the book, taken from William Yates’s line “Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.”, captures exactly what The Tanzania Academy of Sciences (TAAS) and its members, the editors and the individual scientists, hope these stories will achieve. In addition to their distinguished scientific achievements and positions they currently hold, the editors, Professors Keto E. Mshigeni and Ludovick D.B. Kinabo are respectively Secretary-General and Member of the Executive Committee of TAAS.