Date of Birth: 15th Dec 1930
GEOCHEMISTRY: the science dealing with the chemical composition of, and changes in, the earth and its environment
HAEMATEIN: a chemical compound derived from haemotoxylin. It is used as a dye in staining tissues and cells to make them easier to see under a microscope.
HAEMOTOXYLIN: a chemical compound, also used in staining, which was extracted from the logwood tree and can now be synthesised artificially
INORGANIC CHEMISTRY: the study of inorganic compounds. Organic compounds are made up mainly of carbon atoms. All compounds that are not organic compounds are inorganic.
NUCLEAR REACTOR: a device that generates huge amounts of energy by controlled nuclear fission, a process which splits the atoms of very radioactive elements, like uranium or plutonium
At one point, Professor Lalor wanted to study medicine. He changed his mind after working as a pathology technician at the Government Forensic Pathology Facility in Jamaica.
Caribbean Icons in STI Volume 2
Professor Emeritus Gerald Lalor is a visionary with a passion for research. He helped to modernise the campus of The University of the West Indies (UWI) in Mona, Jamaica and established the Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Science, now known as the International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Science (ICENS).
Gerald Lalor was born in Kingston, Jamaica on 15th December 1930. He attended Kingston College and then UWI, Mona where he studied chemistry, physics and mathematics. Soon after attaining his bachelor of science (BSc) degree in 1953, Lalor began working at West Indies Chemical Works, the world’s largest producer of logwood dyes, where he researched his master’s thesis on haemotoxylin and haematein. Before he left the company, he had become Chief Chemist and had discovered a new, profitable method to produce synthetic haemotoxylin after the logwood tree became endangered. He also did a year’s research at the University of Cambridge on a Leverhulme Colonial Scholarship. In 1960, he was appointed Assistant Lecturer in Chemistry at UWI and in 1963, he obtained his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Physical Inorganic Chemistry from the University of London.
In 1966, Professor Lalor travelled to Harvard University and other American universities on a Carnegie Fellowship. After his return to Mona, he became a UWI professor and Head of the Chemistry Department. He was appointed Pro-Vice Chancellor in 1974. In 1978, he began Project Satellite, which introduced satellite communications to Caribbean education and public service. After its success, he became the first director of UWI’s distance learning programme.
Professor Lalor was Principal of the Mona Campus from 1991 to 1995. During this time, he established the Biotechnology Centre and the Centre for Nuclear Sciences, initiated the computerisation of the campus, and improved accessibility for the physically challenged. He has been the Director of the Centre of Nuclear Sciences since its establishment in 1983, contribution to over 50 of the Centre’s scientific publications. Under his direction, the Centre compiled its findings on soils and water into a Geochemical Atlas of Jamaica, and developed a database of this research. ICENS discovered, reduced, treated and prevented lead poisoning in children in the Kintyre district, an area in St. Andrew where backyard smelting is prevalent. These studies led to island-wide research on the effects of lead smelting. ICENS discovered remarkably high levels of heavy metals in some Jamaican soils and conducted research on the transfer of the toxic metal, cadmium, to plants, animals and humans and its negative effects on their health.
Professor Lalor advises students, “If you are interested in how things work and why they work, and how people behave, any of these things, I don’t think there can be any career that can be more fascinating than science… but it’s not easy.”