Verdiana Grace Masanja was the first woman from Tanzania to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics. She was born in Bukoba, an urban area of Tanzania on Lake Victoria near Uganda. An excellent student as a child and often the top in her class, she attended Jangwani High School, Dar es Salaam. Although her initial interest was in biology with a desire to become a medical doctor, her abilities in mathematics encouraged her teachers to push her in that direction. She went on to enroll at the University of Dar es Salaam where she earned her degree in mathematics and physics. She also received a masters degree in mathematics at Dar es Salaam. She then left Tanzania to continue her studies at the Technical University of Berlin, earning a masters in physics and then a PhD in mathematics in 1986. Her thesis was on "A numerical study of a Reiner-Rivlin Fluid in an axi-symmetrical circular pipe." Masanja was one of only two women studying mathematics at the university at that time.
Masanja returned to Tanzania where she is now a professor of mathematics at the University of Dar es Salaam. She has become a leading proponent for the importance of secondary education, and in particular for mathematics education for girls and women. She has served as the secretary for the Commission on Women in Mathematics in Africa, as Vice-President for Eastern Africa on the executive committee of the African Mathematical Union, as the chairperson for the Tanzania Education Network, and as the national coordinator of Female Education in Mathematics in Africa. Masanja is also the mother of four children.
Tawiah, Augustina. "Prof Verdiana Masanja Tells Her Story," Junior Graphic, November 23, 2005 (www.graphicghana.com)