Aklilu Lemma

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Aklilu Lemma
አክሊሉ ለማ
Born18 September 1935
Died5 April 1997(1997-04-05) (aged 61)
Alma mater
AwardsRight Livelihood Award
Scientific career
  • Haile Selassie I University Institute of Pathobiology
  • United Nations
  • Johns Hopkins University

Aklilu Lemma (Amharic: አክሊሉ ለማ; 18 September 1935 – 5 April 1997) was an Ethiopian pathobiologist.[1] In 1989, he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award "for discovering and campaigning relentlessly for an affordable preventative against bilharzia."[2]


Lemma was educated at Addis Ababa University College and at Johns Hopkins University in the U.S.[3] where he obtained his D.Sc. in 1964. His dissertation was on sandfly-borne leishmaniasis.


Following his doctorate, Lemma returned to his home country, Ethiopia, where he obtained a position at the then Haile Selassie I University. He founded the Institute of Pathobiology, now known as the Aklilu Lemma Institute of Pathobiology,[4] and taught there until 1976, when he left it for a job in the United Nations. He served the UN in many capacities as a scientist, became the Deputy Director of UNICEF's International Child Development Centre, now known as UNICEF's Innocenti Research Centre [3] and finally obtained a position in his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University.

He made his most important scientific discovery very early in his career, in 1964, when he discovered a natural treatment to schistosomiasis,[5] also known as snail fever disease or bilharzia, a debilitating disease caused by the parasitic worm Schistosoma, which is spread by freshwater snails. He found that berries from the endod plant, which is commonly used to make soap and shampoos in many parts of Africa, is a potent, inexpensive and safe molluscicide, to prevent the spread of the parasitic worm.[6][7][8][9] This discovery made the plant an object of scientific research in many parts of the world. Lemma himself was at the forefront of this research. His work acquired an international reputation, which in turn led to various awards, including honorary doctorate degrees.[10] The most prestigious award was the one he won together with his research associate, Dr. Legesse Wolde-Yohannes in November 1989 – the Right Livelihood Award of Sweden, commonly referred to as the Alternative Nobel Prize.[11]

He died in the United States on 5 April 1997 and was buried in Ethiopia, on 13 April.[10]

Awards and distinctions[edit]

  • Right Livelihood Award (1989)


  1. ^ Bekele, Shiferaw (2003). "Aklilu Lemma". Encyclopaedia Aethiopica. Vol. 1. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 172.
  2. ^ "Aklilu Lemma". The Right Livelihood Award. Retrieved 2020-01-08.
  3. ^ a b "Aklilu Lemma". The Right Livelihood Award. Retrieved 2019-02-15.
  4. ^ "Aklilu Lemma Institute of Pathobiology | Seek Wisdom, Elevate your Intellect and Serve Humanity". www.aau.edu.et. Retrieved 2019-02-15.
  5. ^ "Aklilu Lemma". The Right Livelihood Award. Retrieved 2019-06-26.
  6. ^ "Acceptance speech - Aklilu Lemma". The Right Livelihood Award. Retrieved 2019-02-15.
  7. ^ Lemma, Aklilu (1970). "Laboratory and Field Evaluation of the Molluscicidal Properties of Phytolacca dodecandra". Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 42 (4): 597–612. ISSN 0042-9686. PMC 2427471. PMID 5310955.
  8. ^ Mazengia, B.; Duncan, J.; Lemma, A.; Goll, P. H. (September 1983). "Control of schistosomiasis in Adwa, Ethiopia, using the plant molluscicide endod (Phytolacca dodecandra)". Tropenmedizin und Parasitologie. 34 (3): 177–183. ISSN 0303-4208. PMID 6636299.
  9. ^ Lemma, Aklilu; Brody, Gerald; Newell, Gordon W.; Parkhurst, R. M.; Skinner, W. A. (1972). "Studies on the Molluscicidal Properties of Endod (Phytolacca dodecandra): I. Increased Potency with Butanol Extraction". The Journal of Parasitology. 58 (1): 104–107. doi:10.2307/3278251. ISSN 0022-3395. JSTOR 3278251. PMID 5062455.
  10. ^ a b Aklilu Lemma International Memorial Symposium Proceedings, September 18-19, 1997. Addis Ababa. 1997.
  11. ^ "Aklilu Lemma (Ethiopia)". Right Livelihood Award. Archived from the original on 25 September 2013. Retrieved 19 February 2011.