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Olikoye Ransome-Kuti was born in Ijebu Ode on 30 December 1927, in present-day Ogun State, Nigeria. His mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, was a prominent political campaigner and women's rights activist, and his father Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, a Protestant minister and school principal, was the first president of the Nigerian Union of Teachers. His brother Fela would grow up to be a popular musician and a founder of Afrobeat, while another brother, Beko, would become an internationally-known doctor and political activist. Ransome-Kuti attended Abeokuta Grammar School, University of Ibadan and Trinity College Dublin (1948–54). He worked as senior house officer at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, and as a locum in Hammersmith Hospital in the 1960s.
In the 1980s, he joined the government of General Ibrahim Babangida as the health minister. In 1986, he conveyed word of Nigeria's first AIDS case, a 14-year-old girl had been diagnosed with HIV. He was minister until 1992, when he joined the World Health Organisation as its Deputy Director-General.
He held various teaching positions, including a recent visiting professorship at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University's school of hygiene and public health. He wrote extensively for medical journals and publications.
He won both the Leon Bernard Foundation Prize and the Maurice Pate Award, in 1986 and in 1990 respectively.
Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti died on 1 June 2003. He was survived by his wife of 50 years and three children.