15th Aug 1913 - 23rd Feb 2004
AGRONOMIST: a scientist who studies soil management and crop production, and develops methods to increase crop yields and promote the efficient use of crop lands
BOTANIST: a person who studies plant life (botany)
PROFESSOR EMERITUS: an honorary position given to a distinguished retired professor who continues to teach
Professor Francis Cope explored the Amazon Rainforest for two years, collecting wild cocoa pods for his research.
Caribbean Icons in STI Volume 2
Professor Emeritus Francis Cope is noted for his groundbreaking work in the 1950s on the breeding of cocoa plants and for his training of cocoa planters throughout the Caribbean. His discoveries led to improved breeding techniques, which increased crop yields and helped to advance the cocoa industry worldwide.
Francis William Cope was born on 15th August, 1913 in Portsmouth, England. He attended Drayton Road Primary School and later the Boys’ Northern Secondary School where he developed his love for science. He obtained a Bachelor of Science (BSc) (General) at the Municipal College in Portsmouth in 1934 and, after being granted a Royal Scholarship, he completed a second Bachelor of Science (BSc) (Special) in geology and botany at the Royal College of Science and Technology, University of London in 1936. He was awarded his Master of Science (MSc) in Botany from the University of London in 1945 and represented the Caribbean at the world’s first Cocoa Conference in London that same year.
Cope started his career in 1936 as a junior botanist for cocoa research at the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture (ICTA) in Trinidad, a centre of excellence at that time for agricultural training and research. There, he developed an interest in understanding the reproduction of cocoa plants, the topic of his master’s thesis. These plants reproduce by both self-pollination and cross-pollination. From many years of research on specimens collected from cocoa-producing countries, Cope discovered that self-compatible trees are able to self-pollinate successfully, whereas self-incompatible ones do not; he discovered that they produce fewer cocoa pods. This discovery eventually led to the interbreeding of different cocoa plants to produce higher yields and superior tasting cocoa.
In the 1940’s, Cope helped to develop Grenada’s cocoa industry and, in the position of Caribbean Agronomist to the Windward Islands, he was responsible for research on cocoa breeding and the training of cocoa plant breeders in the region.
For his decisive work on cocoa from the 1930s to the 1950s and his research on other tropical crops, Cope was awarded a doctorate in 1959 by the University of London. He then taught at The University of the West Indies (UWI) at St. Augustine, Trinidad where he edited the Tropical Agriculture journal for many years. He was appointed Professor of Botany by UWI and was the first Head of the Department of Biological Sciences. When he retired in 1973, he was given the title of Professor Emeritus.
Professor Emeritus Francis Cope eventually returned to England in 1984 where he lived until his death on 23rd February, 2004. He lived by the motto, “Diligence and honesty bring their rewards.”