17th Nov 1922 - 11th Jul 1988
FOOD TECHNOLOGY: the application of scientific and engineering principles in research, development, production, quality control, packaging, processing, and utilisation of foods.
George Moon Sammy
Caribbean Icons in STI Volume 1
With no more than primary schooling, George Moon Sammy set out to gain a university education. He succeeded and became the first PhD graduate of the University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine. He established the Food Technology Department and became its first Professor.
George Moon Sammy was born on November 17th 1922 in Duncan Village, Trinidad. He came from a poor family and sold produce in the market while attending the Canaan Canadian Mission School (now Canaan Presbyterian School). He left school at age thirteen because he had to work.
He was an apprentice tailor and later an office boy and lab hand at Texaco Oil Company. He wanted to attend university, so he studied French, chemistry, and mathematics at home. His determination paid off in 1953, when he passed his examinations and enrolled at the Sir John Cass College, University of London.
At university he spent his summer vacations working to earn tuition fees and was a member of the World Scout Association. He achieved a Special Honours Degree in Chemistry n 1957. Back home, he worked as a Research Chemist at the Texaco Refinery Laboratory.
In 1964 he lectured at UWI while doing his master’s degree. Two years later, he completed a doctorate in physical organic chemistry and then pursued a Master of Science degree in Food Science and Technology at the University of Massachusetts, USA.
Professor Sammy returned to set up a Food Technology Unit and laboratory with undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. He led research to develop new local food products. His successes included composite flour made from sweet potato and wheat, a sorrel drink that was later commercialized, a canned fruit cocktail, and “instant (dehydrated) yam”.
His work was highly respected throughout the Caribbean as it supported efforts to stimulate agricultural production. He established the Caribbean Institute of Food Science and Technology and assisted the National Foodcrop Farmers Association. He also educated farmers on preservation techniques to start small businesses.
An avid nature lover, he formed the Trinidad and Tobago Tropical Fish Association and owned an extensive collection of butterflies. He was a successful orchid breeder with three registered unique breeds.
The Trinidad and Tobago Government awarded him the Hummingbird Medal Gold (1974) and the Chaconia Medal (posthumously, 1988). Sammy made significant contributions to developing the Region’s capability in food technology, but the full potential of his research has not been realised. He died on July 11th 1988.