Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Damn… These Ethiopians fly high!

Famous Ethiopians , to a non-Ethiopian, would highly be personalities like H.I.M. Hailesellasie I, Abebe Bikila, Emperors Tewodros and Menilik II, Haile Gebresellasie, Kenenisa Bekele, the Dibaba sisters and Meseret Defar. There are thousands and thousands more Ethiopians worth mentioning but below are the ones that held, to me, the torch a little higher but aren't as famous because they didn't get the right media coverage. Links are provided at the end for further reference.

1. Selam – Ethiopia’s earliest citizen. While many people may have heard of her famous distant cousin Lucy a.k.a Dinkinesh, Selam (Australopithecus afarensis) was discovered in Ethiopia in 2006 (which incidentally was Ethiopia’s New Millenium) by DR. Zeresenay Alemseged.

2. Kaldi – Ethiopia is the home of coffee. And a young goat herder called Kaldi is credited with the discovery, after he saw his goats dancing. He deduced that it must have had something to do with their eating from the coffee tree.

3. Etegue (Empress) Taytu Bitul – was the wife of Emperor Menilik II. While she was a strict ruler in her own sense, and had a big say in the day-to-day running of the Empire, she was also known for her love of nature. She discovered the site for the foundation of the capital city and named it "Addis Ababa" (New Flower). She was also the one that identified the mistranslation done on purpose by the Italians which would have made Ethiopia a colony of Italy. The most amazing fact is, she led an army and fought the Italians alongside her husband. That makes her the only black Empress to have defeated a modern army – at the battle of Adowa.

4. Wro. Asegedech Asefa - Is the first African woman to pilot an Airplane in or around 1962. When most of Africa was still getting used to the buzz of aircraft Wro. (Amharic for Mrs.) Asegedech had learnt to fly, and gotten her license after joining a civilians club that was run by Ethiopian Airlines.

5. Captain Alemayehu Abebe - the first African commercial jet pilot and the first African to command a commercial jetliner across the Atlantic. He was Ethiopian Airlines’ first Ehiopian pilot after getting his command in 1957.

6. Dr. Aklilu Lemma – winner of The Right Livelihood Award (1989) with Dr. Legesse W/Yohannes for the discovery of the preventive for schistosomiasis (bilharzia). Bilharzia is a disease that is uses the snail as a vector before passing on to human beings. It was Dr. Aklilu’s research that found a way to break the cycle, he used a plant that grew near the rivers – the Sarcoca plant (‘Endod’ in Amharic).

7. Engineer Kitaw Ejigu – was a prominent engineer and scientist that worked for NASA, Rockwell International and Boeing. He was Africa’s only and one of the world’s most renowned aerospace scientists.

8. Captain Aster Tolossa – Is an Ethiopian Air Force pilot. She is the only female pilot to have shot down an enemy aircraft in air to air combat in the jet age. She shot down a MIG-29 from her SU-27 during the Ethio-Eritrean war. The irony is that the pilot flying the Eritrean MIG was her former flight-school instructor, a Russian, flying for the Eritreans.

9. Dr. Belay Abegaz – a Pediatric Cardiologist, is the founder and current Board Chairman of the Children’s Heart Fund which opened a Cardiac Center in Ethiopia for treatment of children with heart diseases. He has made it possible for Ethiopians and the rest of Africa to be treated without having to travel half across the world at exorbitant prices.

10. Dr. Zeresenay Alemseged – discoverer of Selam (Australopithecus - look at number 1) he is the curator and chair of Anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences.

Many more unsung heroes will be added in later blogs. Comments and corrections are highly appreciated.