Letitia Obeng

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Letitia Obeng
Born (1925-01-10) 10 January 1925 (age 94)
Alma materAchimota School, University of Birmingham, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

Letitia Eva Takyibea Obeng (born 10 January 1925 at Anum in the Eastern Region) is the first Ghanaian woman to obtain a degree in Zoology and the first to be awarded a doctorate.[1] She is described as "the grandmother of female scientists in Ghana".[2]


Letitia Obeng attended a primary school in Abetifi, Kwahu and a middle school was in Kyebi. Between 1939 and 1946 she had her secondary school education at Achimota School. While at school she took the London University International Examination to continue her education, courtesy of a government scholarship at the University of Birmingham (1948–1952). She graduated from the University with a degree in Zoology.

Career, achievements & awards[edit]


Letitia Obeng was the first Ghanaian woman to be awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology and Botany (1952), a Master of Science degree in Parasitology (1962) and a PhD in Tropical Medicine (1964).[3] Her Bachelor and Master of Science degrees were both awarded by the University of Birmingham and her PhD was awarded by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, where she studied the black fly and its relevance to river blindness.[1]


After her university education in the United Kingdom, she returned to her homeland Ghana and lectured at the University College of Science and Technology now known as the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology between 1952 and 1959.[4] In 1952, Letitia Obeng became the first female scientist at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) where her husband also worked as a lecturer.[1] After her husband's death in 1959, Letitia Obeng moved to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) (formerly known as National Research Council of Ghana) and in 1964, she established the Institute of Aquatic Biology within the same institution.[5] Letitia Obeng was the first scientist to be employed by the National Research Council of Ghana.[4] In 1964, Letitia Obeng became a fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2006, she became the Academy's first female president. In 1972, Dr. Obeng delivered the Caroline Haslett Memorial Lecture to the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. Her lecture was titled “Nation Building and the African Woman[6]”. Also in 1972, she was an invited participant in the United Nations Human Environment Conference in Stockholm. In 1974, she began work as the Officer in the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). In 1980, she became the Director of the UNEP Regional Office for Africa and UNEP's Representative to Africa. From 2008-2012, Letitia Obeng served as Chair of the Global Water Partnership (GWP).

Awards & achievements[edit]

In 1992-1993, Letitia Obeng was a Distinguished International Visitor fellow at Radcliff College. In 1997, she received the CSIR Award for Distinguished Career and Service to Science and Technology, the first female to receive such an award. Additionally, the CSIR Laboratory (known as The Letitia Obeng Block) was named after her 1997.[7] Letitia Obeng received Ghana's highest national award, Order of the Star of Ghana in 2006. In 2017, she received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).[8]

Research and publications[edit]

Letitia Obeng's research and publication focus on the environment, health and science education particularly in Africa. Her doctoral research investigated the aquatic stages of the Simuliidae identified as a major transmitter of the parasite for river blindness. Related to this research are her articles titled “Life-history and population studies on the Simuliidae of North Wales”[9] and “The identification of the aquatic stages of the British Simuliidae”[10] In a paper titled "Environmental of Impacts of Four African Impoundments”,[11] Dr. Obeng considers the environmental effects of four African dams: Lake Volta, Lake Kariba, Lake Kainji and Lake Nasser. Some of her other research and publications include:

  • The helminth fauna of rodents of the sub-family Murinae in Ghana. (1965)
  • Man-made lakes (1969).
  • Wildlife in the Volta Basin. Man-made Lakes (1969); co-authored with Asibey, E. O. A.
  • Volta Lake: Physical and biological aspects (1973)
  • Should dams be built? The Volta Lake example (1977)
  • Too Much or Too Little (1975)
  • Starvation or Bilharzia? a rural development dilemma (1978)
  • Man's impact on tropical rivers (1981)
  • Composting of domestic refuse (1983); co-authored with Rabbani, K. R., Jindal, R., Kubota, H.,
  • Progress of Science in Africa—in Tradition, Culture and Religion (1986)
  • The right to health in tropical agriculture (1992)

She is also the author of Parasites, the Sly and Sneaky Enemies inside You a book written mainly for a non-scientific audience. Besides her science-related publications, Letitia Obeng is also the author of  A Silent Heritage: an Autobiography.

Personal life[edit]

She is the sister of the late Madam Theodosia Okoh, the designer of the Ghana flag.[12] Her father, Very Reverend E.V. Asihene Anad, was the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana and her mother's name was Dora Asihene. She was married to George A. Obeng who died in 1953.[13] The British Organizational theorists, professor and author Edward David Asihene "Eddie" Obeng (born 1959) is one of Letitia Obeng's children.


  1. ^ a b "LSTM welcomes alumna Dr Letitia Obeng | LSTM". www.lstmed.ac.uk. Retrieved 2016-11-12.
  2. ^ "Meeting Ghana's First Female Scientist - Dr Letitia Obeng". www.ghanaweb.com. GhanaWeb. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  3. ^ "Women in Science: inspiring Stories from Africa. The Network of African Science Academies" (PDF). globalyoungacademy.net. 2017. Retrieved 2018-12-19. |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  4. ^ a b "Dr. Letitia Eva Takyibea Obeng". www.femaleachievers.org. Female Achievers. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  5. ^ GNA (2008). "Meeting Ghana's First Female Scientist - Dr Letitia Obeng". Ghanaweb.
  6. ^ "NATION BUILDING AND THE AFRICAN WOMAN on JSTOR". www.jstor.org. Retrieved 2018-12-19.
  7. ^ "Meeting Ghana's First Female Scientist - Dr Letitia Obeng | Opinions 2008-03-20". www.ghanaweb.com. Retrieved 2018-12-19.
  8. ^ Graphic, Daily. "KNUST honours eight personalities for invaluable services". Graphic Online. Retrieved 2018-12-19.
  9. ^ Obeng, Letitia (1967/2016). "Life-history and population studies on the Simuliidae of North Wales". Annals of Tropical Medicine & Parasitology. 61: 472–487. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. ^ Obeng, Letitia (1965). "The identification of the aquatic stages of the British Simuliidae". Annals of Tropical Medicine & Parasitology. 59: 240–254.
  11. ^ Obeng, Letitia (1977). "Environmental of Impacts of Four African Impoundments". Environmental Impacts of International Civil Engineering Projects and Practices (PDF). American Society of Civil Engineers. p. 29.
  12. ^ "Designer of the Ghana National Flag has passed away". www.oldachimotan.net. Old Achimotan. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  13. ^ 3rd, Ed (2001). The Environment Encyclopedia and Directory 2001. Psychology Press. ISBN 9781857430899.