Date of Birth: 1st July 1935
NEMATOLOGIST: a scientist who studies the nematoda, a class of worms that includes roundworms, hookworms, pinworms, etc.
PATHOLOGY: the branch of medicine that deals with the laboratory examination of samples of tissue for diagnostic purposes
RENAISSANCE MAN: an intellectual who has broad interest in the arts and sciences
Caribbean Icons in STI Volume 1
The scientist, Dr. Joseph Edsel Edmunds, is also an artist, poet, educator, and diplomat- a true Renaissance man. This plant nematologist developed control measures for crops affected by roundworms in Trinidad and the Windward Islands. His expertise was sought after by international organisations in the South Pacific, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
After 18 active years in science, he was appointed Ambassador of St. Lucia to the United Nations, the Organisation of American States, and the United States of America. He was St. Lucia’s first resident ambassador in Washington, DC.
Edsel Edmunds was born on July 1st 1935. He attended the Roman Catholic Boys’ Primary School and St. Mary’s College, St. Lucia. He was fascinated by nature and conducted experiments with plants and dissected dead animals. At school, he played cricket and football, and excelled in his studies. He did the sciences externally and later pioneered the teaching of biology and zoology at his alma mater.
While contemplating studying law or medicine, he accepted a scholarship to the University of Puerto Rico, where he attained a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture. On scholarship to Cornell university, USA, he obtained the Master of Science in Plant Pathology (1963) and PhD in Nematology (1965). His thesis investigated the interaction of nematodes with fungi and their role in plant diseases.
He then became a Research Fellow at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Trinidad and contributed to nematode control in citrus nurseries and plantations. At the Windward Islands Banana Grower’s Association (WINBAN), he investigated damage to bananas by nematodes. He conducted the first comprehensive survey of nematodes affecting crops and was appointed Director of the Research and Development Centre for the banana industry.
He received numerous honours including the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his contribution to science. The nematode Longidorus edmundsi was named in his honour by an English nematologist in 1977.
For leisure, Dr. Edmunds writes poetry and paints. Though not formally trained in art, he paints according to “scientific principles” using unusual materials such as ice, humus, ash, and aluminium foil. He practices Reflexology (a technique for relaxation through foot massage) and Reiki (transmitting healing energy through hands).
His philosophy is “Global Humanism” believing,”basic scientific principles should be used to solve the problems of today”. He believes that:”a disciplined mind will allow you to overcome everything”. He adds that,”there is no end to learning; it should be a continuous process”.