Professor George Ebow Bonney, Ph.D. – Tribute by Professor Felix I D Konotey-Ahulu

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Professor George Ebow Bonney, Ph.D.

Research Scientist, Musician, and Christian
Tribute by Professor Felix I D Konotey-Ahulu*

He was a genius! George Ebow Bonney could have read any subject in university and been able to excel at whatever he did. He chose Mathematics with special emphasis on Statistics, making a huge impact on both sides of The Atlantic. It was my great fortune to have had George work with me at the erstwhile Ghana Institute of Clinical Genetics at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra.

RESEARCH

Using students on summer holiday from the then 3 main universities (Legon, Cape Coast, and Kumasi) and paying them handsomely I had organized a countrywide survey of male/female differential procreation to decide how this affected the prevalence of the Sickle Cell Gene in the various regions in Ghana. We had just found that males, indeed, had more children than females when George joined us on the advice of geneticist Professor Ebenezer Laing of the University of Ghana. “George”, I said to him “I want a mathematical underpinning of this fact known to all Africans, but which Europeans appear to think is nonsense because they cannot imagine how a man can have more children than a woman”. I presented him with our data, and in no time George produced a marvelous article which we published in the world’s leading Science magazine with him as senior author entitled: “POLYGAMY AND GENETIC EQUILIBRIUM” We travelled to Debrecen in Hungary to present papers at the International Congress in Human Genetics.

We next embarked on Twin Studies from 13,000 consecutive births at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. Our unique findings that in Ghana 1 in every 30 consecutive deliveries produced twins compared with 1 in 80 single births in Britain, 1 for 86 in the USA, and 1 in 145 in Japan enthralled geneticists. George Bonney was the one to present the findings of our team (Mary Walker, Koblah Gbedemah, and me) at the International Congress on Twin Studies in the USA, available today as Proceedings of the Second International Congress on Twin Studies Part C, Editor Walter Nance in Progress in Clinical and Biological Research 1978; Volume 24 Pt B, pages 105 to 108.

George Bonney was simply, simply brilliant. When he crossed the Atlantic his worth was soon recognized. His field of research broadened from Genetic Epidemiology, to Statistical Analysis, Mapping of Human Chromosomes, Breast Cancer, Alcoholism, Nicotine Dependence and, recently, Prostate Cancer. Louisiana State University and Howard University held him in very high esteem. Teamed up with Professor Georgia Dunston and brilliant Others at the Howard University Genome Project, George Bonney’s input was well acknowledged. I myself benefited much when he and Professor Dunston invited me to contribute to the First International Inaugural Conference on The Human Genome in Washington DC in 2009. The measure of his global impact can be gauged from the 1988 Tenth Annual George W Sender Award for (wait for it) “The best published work in Biometry in any journal sponsored jointly by the American Statistical Association & the Biometrics Societies of North America” [For researchers seeking to check on this see (i) “Regressive logistic models for familial disease and other binary traits” Biometrics 1986; Volume 42: pages 611 to 625, and also (ii) Biometrics 1987; Volume 43: pages 951 to 973]. He published right up to 2012.

In one National Award Ceremony in the USA, when his name was announced to receive First Prize the audience was expecting to see a Japanese walk to the podium (the name “Bonney” sounded rather Japanese), and were astonished to behold a Ghanaian African walk up accompanied by great applause. I have quite deliberately gone into some detail of what George Ebow Bonney achieved in Science not only to encourage Africa’s younger generation to emulate his hard work, but also (as we shall see in the next section) to debunk the present all-pervading aggressive atheism that says brilliant people do not accept the existence of GOD.

GEORGE BONNEY’S FAITH EXPRESSED IN MUSIC

George’s musical proclivities became evident when, at the University of Ghana, he directed the Male Voice Choir of the University Christian Union. He played the piano and the organ with virtuosity, and his detailed knowledge of Tonic Sol-fa made it easy, and a joy, for him to teach all 4 vocal parts to singers. Remarks Reindorf Baah Perbi, himself an attractive bass voice singer: “I think it was in the Male Voice Choir that some of us learnt the song ‘When we all get to Heaven’” the first verse with chorus of which goes:

Sing the wondrous love of Jesus
Sing His mercy and His grace
In the mansions bright and blessed
He’ll prepare for us a place.
When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing it will be!
When we all see Jesus
We’ll sing and shout the victory!

But Joanna Nerquaye-Tetteh quickly adds that it was not just the male choir that George Bonney taught sacred music to: “He taught the Female Voice Choir too, and he taught us to sing ‘It’s not an easy road, but The LORD is with us!’”

Capt. James Hackman Tachie-Menson’s Hymnal and Book of Anthems
To me Professor George Bonney’s musical legacy is entwined with that of Capt. James H Tachie-Menson whose 4 books are a MUST READ and a MUST SING by all, and I mean all, Ghanaians. I am constrained (if I am to do justice to the sweet memory of George Bonney) to quote the first paragraph of his Foreword to the four extraordinary books:“The four volumes of Songs from Land and Sea: The Captain’s Hymnal in Staff Notation, The Captain’s Hymnal in Tonic Sol-fa Notation, The Captain’s Book of Anthems in Staff Notation, and the Captain’s Book of Anthems in Tonic Sol-fa Notation, bring together for the first

“The four volumes of Songs from Land and Sea: The Captain’s Hymnal in Staff Notation, The Captain’s Hymnal in Tonic Sol-fa Notation, The Captain’s Book of Anthems in Staff Notation, and the Captain’s Book of Anthems in Tonic Sol-fa Notation, bring together for the first time, the sacred compositions of Captain James Hackman Tachie-Menson. I have had indescribable joy collaborating with Captain to produce the First Editions of his work.”

For George Bonney to manage to render each (and every one) of these compositions into Tonic Sol- fa, not only for Treble, but also for Alto, Tenor, and Bass is a mark of rare genius. I do not know of any Professor of Music anywhere in the world who could have done that. Captain James H Tachie-Menson says it all in his Preface to the books:

“I would like to give my very special and sincere thanks to Professor George E. Bonney of Howard University in Washington D.C., the originator and coordinator of the project, who of his own volition and initiative personally transcribed the music from staff notation to tonic sol-fa. He has worked tirelessly to bring this project to fruition”.

GIVEN TO HOSPITALITY

George Ebow Bonney was blessed by the Lord Jesus Christ in the gift of Ewura Efua, that wonderful wife of his. What a privilege for Rosemary, my wife, and myself to be very welcome guests in their beautiful home in Rockville, Maryland in the USA. Many others have testified to their hospitality. We saw and profited from their love for The Lord Jesus who equipped Ewura Efua to live with the punishing schedule of her husband who worked long hours, and appeared to do many things simultaneously. Oh how George will be missed!

My heartfelt Condolences and Rosemary’s go to gallant Ewura Efua, and their children and families Aba Bonney Kwawu and Erwin Kwawu and their children Sela Kwawu and Eli Kwawu, and Kofi Bonney and wife Nicole Bonney, and the larger families in Ghana. May the GOD of all comfort surround them with His amazing love in The Lord Jesus Christ through the power of The Holy Spirit. [2 Corinthians chapter 1 verses 3 & 4]. As for George Ebow Bonney, what a Prospect!

H E A V E N

Oh think to step ashore, and that shore Heaven; To take hold of a hand, and that hand God’s hand; To breathe a new air, and that air Celestial air;
To feel invigorated, and know it, Immortality; Oh think, to pass from the storm and tempest To one unbroken smile,
To wake, and find it GLORY!

*Felix I D Konotey-Ahulu is Dr Kwegyir Aggrey Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics, University of Cape Coast, Ghana and Consultant Physician Genetic Counsellor in Sickle Cell and Other Haemoglobinopathies, 9 Harley Street Ltd, Phoenix Hospital Group, London W1G 9AL [ www.konotey- ahulu.com & www.sicklecell.md ]

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