Posted by: mmeazaw | March 7, 2011

Honorable Ethiopian in Science & Technology


Dr. Aberra Molla is the pioneer who computerized the Ethiopian alphabet – known as Ethiopic – for the fist time by giving a spot for each and every glyph. With the help of his son – Brook – it took Dr. Aberra a year to make one set of Geez screen and printer fonts in 1986. This was accomplished by systematically spreading the more than 400 Ethiopian alphabet glyphs on eight character sets. The first Ethiopic character set and word processor was released in 1987 and his Geez Microsoft DOS ModEth publisher is hailed as a classic work that moved the Ethiopian alphabet from the printing press to the computer for the first time.
Dr. Aberra Molla was introduced to computers in 1976 – during the punch card era – when he was a post–doctoral Clinical Science student at Colorado State University. He is a visionary who recognized the power of computers and its potential and was ahead of his time. Since 1982, he has been working with the Ethiopian alphabet and he succeeded in 1990 in standardizing Ethiopic and caused its inclusion in Unicode – an international standard.  Examples of his accomplishments are pending patents and recognition in 1990 by the Ethiopian Research Council for computerizing Ethiopic and revolutionizing the Geez script.  A prolific writer, an inventor, a scientist and a father of three engineers, Dr. Aberra is also deservingly credited with being the father of Ethiopic.
His successful innovative work has meant that Ethiopians can now and will in the future communicate in their native langue using computer devices.  Dr. Aberra’s contributions and his place in the field of science and technology in Ethiopia is of major importance, especially in this so call Age of Information Technology.  And Ethiopians are grateful to him and his continuing innovative works and they say THANK YOU as they welcome the New Millennium. 


Engineer Fesseha Atlaw is the pioneer who produced the first Ethiopian word-processor in DOS and who created the first Ethiopic writing software. His ground-breaking achievements have meant that Ethiopians anywhere in the world could continue to use their unique scripts beyond traditional ways and on computers and other digital gadgets. Ethiopia is the only country in Africa to have its own written language with its own unique scripts. Given the ever growing influence of computers on every aspects of human life, it was widely accepted that a language that cannot be computerized would die out. And in the absence of any government initiative, the task of saving Ethiopia ‘s unique cultural heritage and passing it on to future generations was left to individuals like Engineer Fesseha Atlaw who dare to think outside the square. Engineer Fesseha changed the course of our language forever and the way we use it to communicate when he came up with the first Ethiopian word-processor in DOS called Dashen in 1985. He was the founder and president of Dashen Engineering – the first company that offered the first commercial Ethiopic software. The company was formed in 1982 in Santa Clara – California – and the first Ethiopian software product was available commercially in 1985. Engineer Fesseha collaborated with Joe Baker of Xerox in the United States to draft the first Ethiopic ISO standard which has now become a UNICODE standard and they began lobbying for ‘ETHIOPIC’ to be included in the standard. This resulted in Amharic being used in Ethiopian websites and also more and more Ethiopians using their own language to send e-mail messages. He received a life time achievement award – pioneering Ethiopic computerization – by Ethiopian Information Technology Professionals Association at Addis Ababa University.
Ethiopia is entering the new millennium knowing that not only its unique language will have just as much place in computing as any other western language, but also assured that its rich cultural and historical records will be preserved and told digitally in Ethiopic for generations to come. And this giant leap forward has been made possible by the pioneering works of Engineer Fesseha.



Simply and concisely put, Professor Aklilu Lemma was an Ethiopian scientist who discovered a remedy for a disease called Bilharzia from the fruit of a local plant called Endod. Bilharzia is a life-threatening parasitic disease caused by a worm that lives in a host snail. Humans can become infected when they come in contact with water in ponds and rivers where the snail lives. It occurs most often in tropical regions and is among the worst killer diseases in developing countries.
A graduate of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore – USA – with a doctorate science degree in Pathobiology, Professor Aklilu Lemma was the founding Dean of the Faculty of Science and Director of the Institute of Pathobiology at Addis Ababa University.

Professor Aklilu was the chief organizer and Vice Chairman of the National Committee for the establishment of the National Scientific and Technical Research Council of Ethiopia. He became Chief Advisor for Science and Technology to the Ethiopian government in the 1960’s and led the establishment of the present Ethiopian Science and Technology Commission.

In 1976 he was offered a position at the United Nations as Senior Advisor of Technology of Health and Development. In 1988 he became Deputy Director of UNICEF’s International Child Development Centre in Florence – Italy . Working in various capacities for the UN Center for Science and Technology for Development, he was responsible for the conceptualization and

development of the Advanced Technology Alert System (ATAS) – an international mechanism designed to benefit developing countries by alerting them in advance to the potential positive and negative implications of new technologies.
But earlier in 1964 Professor Aklilu Lemma discovered that suds from the fruit of a common plant – Endod or soapberry – which African women have used as soap for centuries – act as a potent molluscicide. To follow up this discovery, Aklilu Lemma in 1966 established the Institute of Pathobiology in Addis Ababa University , and for the next 10 years he directed a team to carry out systematic research on Endod. He was joined in this work in 1974 by a fellow Ethiopian scientist – Dr. Legesse Wolde Yohannes. The discovery offered no less than a cheap, locally-controllable means of eradicating a disease that is the second greatest scourge – after malaria – in the African continent as well as the rest of the developing world.

Both Professor Aklilu Lemma and Dr. Legesse Wolde Yohannes founded the Endod Foundation in 1992 to serve as an umbrella for all Endod-related work. The foundation is an Ethiopian scientific research association and its headquarter is in Addis Ababa. Following collaboration with Professor Aklilu Lemma, the University of Toledo in the United States was granted a US patent on an Endod-based molluscicide intended to control the zebra mussels which have recently invaded American lakes and caused extensive damage to water supplies. This has opened a major new hope for marketing and exporting Endod as a cash crop for Ethiopia.

Professor Aklilu Lemma and his research associate Dr. Legesse Wolde Yohannis were awarded the Swedish Right Livelihood Award in November 1989 in Sweden for their research and pioneering discoveries. Other honors of Dr. Aklilu include various fellowships from the Ethiopian Government, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Health Organization and Johns Hopkins University in the United States . He was also a recipient of Emperor Haileselsassie’s Gold Medal for achievements in scientific research in Ethiopia . Scientist Aklilu Lemma was once quoted as saying ‘we found a poor man’s medicine for a poor man’s disease.’ He died on 5 April 1997 at the age of 63, but his legacy will live on forever. And his pioneering – world-first – scientific discovery could mean that millions will live longer and healthier lives.


Professor Tilahun Yilma is a veterinary virologist at the University of California who genetically engineered a vaccine for a deadly cattle disease and is now working to develop a vaccine for AIDS. The deadly rinderpest is an acute infectious viral disease of cattle which has killed millions of cattle in Africa and Professor Tilahun Yilma spent several years to create a vaccine for it. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Science in 1968, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1970 and a Doctoral Degree in Microbiology in 1977 from UC Davis.
After earning his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1970 from the School of Veterinary Medicine , Professor Yilma returned to Ethiopia and spent two years as a veterinarian tracking the nomadic herders in the campaign to vaccinate Africa ‘s cattle and eradicate rinderpest. More than 125 million cattle were vaccinated, and for several years it appeared that rinderpest had been eradicated in Africa . But in 1980, the virus resurfaced in Nigeria and swept back across the Sahara . It killed an estimated $400 million worth of cattle and sapped more than $2 billion in related losses.

The disease was introduced to Africa in 1888 by the Italian troops who invaded Ethiopia that year. It is believed that the disease was carried by three infected cows and it spread from Ethiopia ‘s east coast across the Sahara Desert , killing in just one year 90 percent of the domesticated cattle. As a result, an estimated 30 to 60 percent of Ethiopia ‘s population starved to death that year.

In 1997 Professor Yilma’s vaccine was approved for widespread use throughout Africa . It was the first genetically engineered vaccine to be released by a U.S.-funded researcher in a foreign country. He went on to develop inexpensive diagnostic kits for rinderpest and made them available to African scientists.

He also worked to secure funding for new biotechnology laboratories in developing countries. As a result of his efforts, the U.S. Agency for International Development in 1990, with the help of the Egyptian government, constructed near Cairo the Laboratory of Molecular Biology for Tropical Diseases, an offspring of Yilma’s own laboratory at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Professor Tilahun Yilma was named the 2002 Faculty Research Lecturer by his colleagues at the University of California in Davis which is the highest honor UC Davis faculty members can bestow upon their peers. He has also been honored with the UC Davis Distinguished Public Service Award in 1994, the School of Veterinary Medicine ‘s Faculty Award for Research Excellence in 1993 and 1991 and the UC Davis Alumni Achievement Award in 1991. He served from 1980 to 1986 as a faculty member in the department of veterinary microbiology and pathology at Washington State University and from 1977 to 1979 as a research associate at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York .

He is the Director of the International Laboratory of Molecular Biology for Tropical Disease Agents and his research efforts are now focused on using similar recombinant-DNA technology to develop a vaccine for AIDS.

Professor Tilahun Yilma’s revolutionary scientific research efforts have created a new vaccine which has already saved and will continue to save the lives of millions of cattle in Africa and in other developing regions of the world whose economies are dependant on Agriculture. His unparalleled scientific excellence is the pride of Ethiopia and Ethiopians praise and honor him at this special time in history as Ethiopia prepares to enter its second millennium.


  The late engineer Kitaw Ejigu was Ethiopia ‘s one and only aerospace scientist. One of the world’s best aerospace scientists and the only Ethiopian in the field, Engineer Kitaw worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration – NASA -, Rockwell International and for the Boeing Company which is a leading American aircraft and aerospace manufacturer. He completed a diploma in 1966 in Ethiopia and worked as an engineer for two years servicing agricultural vehicles before pursuing his ambitions in a field that no other Ethiopian has ever attempted to embark on.

In 1972 he won a scholarship from the Japanese Overseas Technical Association and traveled to Japan where he studied automotive engineering at Hiroshima University , as well as Language and Economics at Osaka University. He later moved to the United States and began his intensive research and training and earned MS/MBA in business administration in 1979. He then completed his doctorate in space vehicle systems engineering from Northrop University in California.

Upon completion of his studies and researches in the late 1970s, he started working for NASA as a system engineer and space research scientist. He collaborated with other scientists to create space shuttles and rockets that assisted in planetary science research and exploration for planet earth. Among his greatest achievements while in NASA and Boeing are his innovative creations of the Global Positioning System or GPS and a revolutionary and dynamic flight simulator for the Boeing Company.

Engineer Kitaw Ejigu died at the age of 58 on 13 January 2006 in the United States. Apart from his prestigious status as an aerospace scientist, he was also widely known for his efforts to bring about political change in Ethiopia. He publicly denounced the regime in Ethiopia and its atrocious actions and policies. Even though he was ambitious about using his knowledge, experience and high-status to help his homeland Ethiopia , he repeatedly said he was not made welcome by the regime. And in 2002, he founded the political party – The Ethiopian National United Front– to help overthrow the unpopular regime and to bring about a stable and democratic political system. He was a passionate believer in Ethiopia who always wanted to utilize his expertise to change things for the better for the average Ethiopian. Despite his sudden and early departure, he will continue to be a remarkable role model for many generations of Ethiopians. The tales of his achievements in the field of aerospace will inspire many would-be Ethiopian scientists. And the political struggle he initiated is gaining momentum throughout Ethiopia which will one day see his dreams of a democratic and peaceful Ethiopia become a reality.


 Professor Lemma W. Senbet is a Chair Professor in finance at the state University of New York. Professor Senbet’s widely cited publications have appeared in the Journal of Finance, Review of Financial Studies, Journal of Business, and other leading academic journals. He has received numerous honors and recognitions over the years. He has been a director of the American Finance Association and served as President of the Western Finance Association. He is an inducted Fellow of the Financial Management Association International and a member of the Financial Economists Roundtable. He was awarded an honorary doctor of Letters Honoris Causa by Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia’s flagship institution of higher learning and his alma mater. Senbet has advised the World Bank, the IMF, the UN, and other institutions on issues of financial sector reforms and capital market development. He has served as an independent director for The Fortis Funds and currently is an independent director for The Hartford Funds.  Senbet has also served on over a dozen editorial boards, including the Journal of Finance (12 years) and Financial Management (20 years), Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis (7 years), and as Executive Editor of Financial Management (6 years). He has chaired international programs and delivered keynote speeches worldwide.  He received the school’s Krowe Award for Teaching Excellence in 1994.  Professor Lemma is a visionary who was born and raised in a country publicized as one of the poorest in the world, now making invaluable contributions to the financial markets of the country promoted as one of the richest in the world.  His success story will undoubtedly inspire countless Ethiopians and many are grateful to him for the exceptional work that he has done in the United States as a native Ethiopian.


Dr. Zeresenay Alemseged is the Ethiopian scientist who discovered – in September 2006 – a 3.3-million-year-old remains of a human-like child in the Dikika region of Ethiopia. Until this discovery, the best example of this family of early human ancestors was Lucy – a 91cm-tall, 25kg adult found in Ethiopia in 1974. The newly discovered child skeleton has been nicknamed Selam and it is confirmed that she is the oldest discovered ancestor of human beings to date. Dr. Zeresenay is the first Ethiopian to lead a research team that has made such an important discovery.
Dr. Zeresenay was born in 1969 in Axum, now a provincial town in Northern Ethiopia. He is a bright young scientist who has studied in the US and Europe and is currently attached to the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Under the direction of the renowned French anthropologist Yves Coppens and the close association of Dr. Denis Geraads he worked for his PhD dissertation on the Omo fossils that were recovered in the late sixties and early seventies. Soon after his graduation in 1998, Dr. Zeresenay went to the Afar region in search of an area of his own. He knew exactly what he was looking for when he settled for the Busidima-Dikika area. Squeezed between Hadar and the Middle Awash, the area was to be an anthropologist’s safe haven. In 2000, Dr. Alemseged set off toward the north-eastern deserts of Ethiopia. Working in the blistering heat, his team discovered what he thought was the skull of a creature that was one of the first apes to have walked on two feet. And after a relentless search, he discovered the child remains thereby putting his name in the history books forever.

He is a bright young scientist who has studied in the US and Europe and is currently works at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig – Germany. His discovery didn’t just prove that Ethiopia is the cradle of mankind, but it also asserted that Ethiopia has talents of the highest quality and minds of the greatest capacity.


Captain Alemayehu Abebe is the first black African commercial Jet pilot and the first black African to command a commercial jetliner across the Atlantic.  He was appointed as the first Ethiopian aircraft commander in January 1957.  He is a central figure in Ethiopian aviation history as the pioneer in the field.  He deserves praise for taking on a new technological field that no other Ethiopian did before him.  It is known that he became interested in flying airplanes at the age of 10 as he saw airplanes fly over him in his home town of Babile – Harar.  Unlike many pilots, he was not from a privileged family.  Yet through determination and self-discipline he was able to fulfill not only his dreams of becoming a captain, but also to have his name in the history books as the first African commercial Jet pilot.


In June 2003, three fossilized skulls were unearthed in Ethiopia that are among the most important discoveries ever made in the search for the origin of humans.  The crania of two adults and a child – all dated to be around 160,000 years old – were pulled out of sediments near a village called Herto in the Afar region in the east of the country.  The discovery was led by Dr. Berhane Asfaw and he had been working on the project since 1997.  Dr Brehane’s discovery once more confirmed that Ethiopia is indeed the cradle of mankind.   
Dr. Berhane Asfaw is a world-renowned paleoanthropologist (an anthropologist who studies early humans by excavating and looking at fossilized human skeletal remains) leading major expeditions in Ethiopia and elsewhere.  He is the manager of a private research centre by the name of Rift Valley Research Service in Addis Ababa and co-director of the International Middle Awash Research Project in the Afar region.

Dr. Berhane received his undergraduate degree from Addis Ababa University and went on to study at the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a Ph.D. in physical anthropology in 1988. He then became paleoanthroplogy coordinator of Ethiopia’s Center for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage in the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture and director of the National Museum of Ethiopia. After serving as a visiting professor of anthropology at Rutgers University, he accepted an appointment to his present position in 1997. Dr. Berhane has lectured widely and is the co-author of some thirty papers published in scientific journals. He completed extensive survey work in the Awash depression and played a major role in unearthing many fossils thought to be among the earliest hominids, some now dated at more than four million years of age. He has been working on the middle Awash Valley research field since 1974. He was a student-researcher with the University of California palaeon-tological team that discovered the 3.5 million-year old remains of Lucy – unearthed in 1974 and believed to be the oldest known hominoid directly related to Homo sapiens.

Dr. Berhane has recruited and mentored many Ethiopian scholars, and now has about a dozen of Ethiopians scientists on his team.  His scientific talents and leadership in paleoanthropology has played a key role in the confirmation of the idea that the human race descended from Ethiopia.



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