Wijaya Godakumbura

1998 Laureate, Science & Health
Sri Lanka


Project Goal

Prevent severe burns by replacing dangerous lamps

Location: Sri Lanka

For more than 10 years, Wijaya Godakumbura has battled apathy and ignorance to save Sri Lankans from disfigurement and death caused by homemade lamps.

Returning to his native Sri Lanka in the 1970s, after studying and practising medicine in the U.K., surgeon Wijaya Godakumbura , born in 1940, began working in provincial hospitals where he witnessed firsthand the severe burns caused by the ubiquitous, makeshift kerosene-oil bottle lamps.

In 1992, he set out to alleviate the situation, and for the next five years, alongside his busy practice, developed the Safe Bottle Lamp.

He established the Safe Bottle Lamp Foundation in 1998, the year he won a Rolex Award for his ingenious invention. Apart from the funds, the Award gave him confidence and garnered publicity, leading to the sale of hundreds of thousands of lamps and saving more than a million people from burns.

Godakumbura is now, as a member of three injury-prevention committees, also focusing on the prevention of all types of injuries. He regularly speaks at medical conferences and has begun writing a book on child and adolescent injuries.

Other 1998 Laureates