Kenya mourns death of a ‘scientific giant’

Thomas Odhiambo

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[NAIROBI] Thomas Odhiambo, founding director of the Nairobi-based International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) and a leading figure in African science for several decades, died on Monday (26 May) while receiving hospital treatment in Nairobi, Kenya.

In addition to founding ICIPE, Odhiambo, 72, who studied entomology in Kenya and the United Kingdom, played a pivotal role in establishing the African Academy of Sciences in 1985.

As president of the academy from 1985 to 1995, he worked to identify outstanding scientific talent in Africa, to harness this talent for national development, and to advance partnerships between scientific and political leaders.

Odhiambo served as vice president of the Trieste-based Third World Academy of Science (TWAS), and was the co-founder and director of Research and Development Forum for Science-led Development in Africa (RANDFORUM), an organisation engaged in building science and technology capacities to stimulate development.

In a message of condolence, Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki described Odhiambo as an accomplished scholar who had contributed immensely towards research and institutional development. “The country has lost an outstanding patriot whose research findings went a long way towards improving the well-being of mankind,” he said.

Shem Wandiga, former president of the Kenya National Academy of Sciences (KNAS), said that Odhiambo had been a “giant of a scientist” in Africa.

“We might have underestimated his accomplishments in this part of the world but internationally he was recognised and respected,” he said. “Our efforts now should be to further his dream for a science-led African development.”

In 1987, Odhiambo received the Africa Prize for Leadership jointly with former Senegalese president, Abdou Diouf. The prize was awarded by the then US president Ronald Reagan.