dimanche 21 mars 2010


(For Dr. Henry Joko my classmate at Sacred Heart College, Bamenda, Republic of Cameroon, who was born a chemist)

By Tikum Mbah Azonga

I like chemistry
Not so much the chemistry of carbons
But the chemistry of the halogens
The periodic table
With all its characteristics and properties
Formations, reactions, emissions
Bromine, chlorine and fluorine
The Group 7 family.

Mendeleev did a great job
Providing a springboard not just for chemistry
But also physics and engineering
Mendeleev is the Einstein of chemistry.
Thanks to the table, we can
Classify, compare, contrast, synthesize and observe
We can note atomic numbers with protons
Quantum mechanics
Electron configuration.

But I also remember the alkaline earth metals
The metalloids
The transition elements
Let’s just lump all of them together
The noble gases.

But think of the singles

I mean, chemical bonding
Covalent bonding
Ionic bonding
Metallic bonding
You name them.

Think about the compounds
Those chemical substances of two or more chemical elements
Capable of further breakdown
Sodium Chloride (NaCl)
Hydrogen Chloride (HCl)
Manganese Dioxide (MnO2)
Magnesium Chloride (MgCl2)
Sodium Nitrite (NaNO2)
Potassium Permanganate (KMnO4).

Of course, acids are in a class of their own
In water they give a hydrogen ion activity
Hydrochloric Acid (HCl)
Sulphuric Acid (H2SO4)
Acetic Acid (CH3COOH),
Chloric Acid (HCl03)
Nitric Acid (HN03)
Perchloric Acid (HCL04)
Hydrobromic Acid (HBr)
Hypochloric Acid (HCl0).

This is all no news for Dr. Henry Joko
We called him “Doctor” back at school
Long before he became one.
That was when as school infirmarian
He prescribed and supplied us
Acetylsalicylic Acid
As the need arose
He told us about diethyl ether
And the chemistry of esters
And esterization
All in a day’s work.

But today
Does he still remember those good old days
And the times when Brother Norbert
Vice Principal and Chemistry teacher
Taught us in Forms Four and Five
“One mole, one gram, one atom!”
Or perhaps now that the times have changed
We have all moved on
And a lot of water has flown under the bridge
Dr. Joko is too busy
Feeling with his stethoscope
Opening up, stitching up and closing up
Like our other Classmate, Dr. Charles Awasom
Director of the Regional Hospital in Bamenda
Dr. Sanjoh John Aloh, medical officer in charge of the
National Social Insurance Fund Hospital in Yaounde
Where he succeeded our other classmate, Dr. Kuma Nkuo
Today a doctor in his own right too
Somewhere in Europe?

Those were the classmates of ours who went on to become physicians
They were the ones who went out to spread the word about chemistry
They were the ones who went out to implement what Brother Norbert taught us
And before him, Mr John Fombe in Form Three
And before him, Mr Forbi (Molecular Man) in Form Two
And before him, Mr Obassey in Form One.

They have helped in propping the new world order
And so Chemistry has lived on
And developed
And evolved
It has taken its place in the new dispensation
In the life on the fast lane
In the re-ordered universe
Characterized by the new communication superhighway
And the global village.

Copyright 2010

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