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Listen or download interview (mp3, 26 minutes, 15MB)
Tilahun Yilma learned from his grandmother about the Year of the Annihilation of Cattle. That year was 1888, when invading Italian troops brought rinderpest, a deadly cattle disease, to Ethiopia. The virus wiped out 90 percent of the nation’s cattle, and millions of people starved to death in the aftermath.
In his native Ethiopia, Yilma listened to his grandmother’s stories and set out to destroy the disease that had devastated his country. His work to develop a new vaccine for rinderpest helped eradicate the disease, the last known case of which was recorded in 2001.
Tilahun Yilma is a Distinguished Professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine of the University of California, Davis. He also directs the International Laboratory of Molecular Biology for Tropical Disease Agents. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2004.
Last Updated: 07-11-2013
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The audio files linked above are part of the National Academy of Sciences InterViews series. Opinions and statements included in these audio files are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Academy of Sciences.