Dr. Thomas Risley Odhiambo

Dr. Thomas Risley Odhiambo was a Kenyan born entomologist whose work classified new genera and species of the Miridae bugs of East Africa. He was one of 10 children. He demonstrated his academic rigor early during his primary when he scored top in the nation in a preliminary exam which would ultimately lead him to Makerere University (MU) in Uganda. He received his BS (1953) in Botany and Zoology at MU, and MA in Natural Sciences and PhD (1965) in Insect Physiology at Queens’ College at the University of Cambridge (QC). He was the first Keynan to matriculate at Queens’ College. His thesis, combined with work he would later complete at the University of Nairobi (UofN) as faculty, would provide major insight into the desert locust and tsetse fly, major African pests that wreak havoc agriculturally and biologically. 

Dr. Odhiambo did not only become a world-renowned entomologist, but also fought to establish several centers across Africa that focused on mentoring young African scientists alike. Among these hubs, he also established the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Endocrinology (ICIPE) (later changed to Ecology), the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), and the African Academy of Sciences (AAS). He launched the journals “Insect Science and its Application” and “Discovery and Innovation”. As a founding member of many centers aimed at increasing scientific outreach and literacy, he worked tirelessly to put science at the forefront of many African government policies. He also published more than 110 manuscripts. He was one of the inaugural Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger laureates in 1987. After a lifetime of contributions to the world of entomology, equity, and diversity, he passed away from liver cancer in 2003. To this day he is still regarded as fundamental in bringing Africa to the global scientific stage.


  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/425142a
  2. https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/C230D7197D91C54F78A18FCE2CC95E4B/S1742758400023560a.pdf/thomas_risley_odhiambo.pdf
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/01/world/thomas-odhiambo-72-scientist-who-helped-africa-s-farmers.html
  4. https://www.africansinstem.co.uk/thomas-odhiambo.html
  5. https://thp.org/what-we-do/where-we-work/africa/africa-prize/
  6. https://www.queens.cam.ac.uk/life-at-queens/news-and-events/interesting-alumni-dr-thomas-risley-odhiambo