Today: June 18, 2024

List of Ethiopian Scientific Luminaries

October 26, 2023
By Professor Paulos Milkias

[Ethiopia is not only about fratricidal war, famine, disease, bad governance, dictatorship, greed, corruption. and political limbo. The list below shows that, though economically struggling and educationally dislocated, it is stellar in the field of scientific achievement. The catalogue below is by no means complete. Please feel free to suggest other luminaries missing from the list.]


  1. Captain Alemayehu Abebewas the first Black African commercial jet pilot and the first black African to command a commercial jetliner across the Atlantic. He achieved this distinction in 1957, becoming a central figure in Ethiopian aviation history.
  2. Dr. Aberra Molla: A visionary who computerized the Ethiopian alphabet, created fonts and word processing software, and played a crucial role in standardizing Ethiopic and its inclusion in Unicode. He achieved this spectacular feat in 1987. His pioneering work allowed Ethiopians to use their native language on computers. In 2018, he was awarded the honour of Lifetime Unicode Memberfor his scientific contribution.
  3. Dr. Berhane Asfaw: A world-renowned paleoanthropologist, he led significant expeditions in Ethiopia, including the discovery of 160,000-year-old fossilized skulls near Herto, confirming Ethiopia as the cradle of humanity.
  4. Dr. Zeresenay Alemseged: Discovered a 3.3-million-year-old child’s remains in Ethiopia, establishing the child as the oldest ancestor of modern humans. He was the first Ethiopian to lead such a significant research team in the field of anthropology.
  5. Engineer Kitaw Ejigu: An aerospace scientist who worked for NASA, Rockwell International, and Boeing. He made notable contributions to space shuttle technology and flight simulation. He also founded a political party to bring political change to Ethiopia.
  6. Professor Aklilu Lemma: Discovered the use of the Endodplant to control the disease Bilharzia. He played a significant role in science and technology development in Ethiopia and internationally, working with the UN and other organizations. He won the Alternative Nobel, the Right Livelihood Award
  7. Dr. Tewolde Berhan, Gebre Egziabher[Ethiopian scientist, and anti-globalization activist who won the Alternative Nobel, the Right Livelihood Awardin 2000
  8. Professor Tilahun Yilma:A veterinary virologist hailing from Ethiopia stationed for a long time at the University of California, Davis, developed a highly effective and simple to use vaccine for the deadly cattle disease rinderpest and on account of that won the highest international prize in animal science, the Ciba-Geigy award. He also worked to develop diagnostic kits and biotechnology laboratories in developing countries. His contribution has been crucial for agriculture-dependent countries of the Third World including Ethiopia.
  9. Engineer Fesseha Atlaw: Known for creating the first Ethiopian word processor in DOS, he contributed to the computerization of the Ethiopian script and its inclusion in international standards like Unicode in 2018. His work enabled Ethiopians to use their unique scripts on digital devices.
  10. Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, an Ethiopian scientist, won the National Medal of Science, the most prestigious recognition for scientists in the United States, on 26 October 2023. Dr. Gebisa is renowned worldwide as a preeminent plant geneticist, with a primary focus on the research of sorghum, a crucial food source in Africa. In 2009, he was awarded the esteemed World Food Prizefor pioneering a drought-resistant sorghum hybrid that demonstrated resilience against the invasive parasitic weed, Striga, prevalent in African farming communities.
  11. Last but not least, we have Heman Bekele, a 14-year-old ninth grader from Annandale, Virginia, who was crowned in 2023 “America’s Top Young Scientist” after inventing a groundbreaking soap designed to treat skin cancer.



  1. Thank you Brother Obbo Professor Paulos Milkias for posting this article with the list of countrymen scientists whose work contributed so much for the good on all humanity. Their work proves the fact that what the people of that country we still hold very dear heart can achieve if they are left alone to live in peace and stability along with the means to modern technology and education. Just look what the 14-yr old young man achieved just 10 years after he left the unstable environment in his birthplace. He did not just become a valedictorian but also a scientist. What aches and bleeds my heart is his contemporaries in the old country are being used as cannon fodder for stupid wars started and being waged by stupid individuals. It just boils my blood!!!

    Thank you again, brother!!!

  2. Well Done, Prof. Paulos,
    It is very Patriotic of you to bring up all this info about our distinguished compatriots & some even friends.

    I hope you will be able to share it in as many publications as possible, particularly in our country.

    Blessssss YOU ! ! !

  3. well as an Ethiopian I am aspired by their achivement and refer them Ethiopians are not followers but creators as well. In reality it is very hard this time to put them in Ivory tower the liberation fighters in Ethiopian jungles are my heroes and thinksers.

  4. Thank you so much professor Paulos Milkias you are a balanced elitte I follow you always.It is only few senior Ethiopia elites who make such analysis giving credit to the popular resistance and revolution of that generation that I and my brother belong on opposite directions .Profesor Bahru Zewde and the late professor Mesfin Woldemariam are other few elites who have similar view on this like you.Of course due to failed leadership our students and youth revolution brought evil dictators from Mengistu Hailemariam to Abiy Ahmed but the honest dedication and sacrifice of that geregation shidnt be dismissed or as some image it as demonic the sacrifice of millions patrotc students including those who came from high cass like General Mebratu ‘s daugther Martha,and brother of princes Sara Gizaw our hero Tilahun Gizaw and Walelegn Mekonne the son of rich landlord from Wollo.
    Please,do not forget mentions great authors like Dr Hadis Alemayhi who was voice for the oppressed people of Ethiopia with very good recommendation to consecutive Ethiopian regimes and Berhanu Zerihun who passed with his debt of publishing cost and Bealu Girma the timeless editor of Oromai.Berhanu Zerihun encouraged us amatier writers but Loret Tsegaye GebreMedhin and Afwork Tekle were not encouraging beginners once Tsegay disqualified dozens competing for Ethiopian Tourism while Berhanu promoted many amatuer young wreiters who are now key writers at home and at diaspora.
    Professor Abu Bakr mentioned that era as the era of kings of examination I pray it gone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Bikila Award in Toronto where the best of Ethiopia were highlighted | Bikila Awards 2023
Previous Story

Bikila Award in Toronto where the best of Ethiopia were highlighted | Bikila Awards 2023

Festival will celebrate Ethiopian emperor’s time in Bath
Next Story

Festival will celebrate Ethiopian emperor’s time in Bath

Latest from Blog

State Fragility in Ethiopia: A Book Review

By Worku Aberra Over the past 50 years, Ethiopia has faced profound political changes. The restoration of Haile Selassie’s rule in 1941 marked the beginning of systemic shifts in Ethiopia, with modernization

Shambel Belayneh presents Ayzosh Addis Ababa, the latest Ethiopian music release of 2024

Shambel Belayneh presents Ayzosh Addis Ababa, the latest Ethiopian music release of 2024 የወሎ እዝ የላስታ ፋኖዎች የአሳምነው ግልገሎች ለኦሮሞ፣ ለደቡብ፣ ለአፋር፣ ለሱማሌ እና ለሁሉም ለኢትዮጵያ እናቶች መልእክት አለን እያሉ ነው።#FanoCourage#WarOnAmhara pic.twitter.com/BqebDQhD1g
Go toTop