Date of Birth: 9th Dec 1933
TISSUE CULTURE: the practice of cultivating, developing, or producing growth from cells of plants or animals or any parts or organs
BIOTECHNOLOGY: any technology which utilises a living organism to improve or make a new product, such as yeast activity in the making of beer or bread
Caribbean Icons in STI Volume 1
Julian Duncan, Professor Emeritus (Botany) at the UWI St. Augustine, played a vital role in the training of young scientists through teaching and research in botany and plant tissue culture. His pioneering efforts in tissue culture yielded successful methods for mass producing high-quality planting materials for several important plant species.
An outstanding educator, he received the inaugural UWI Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and Administration. The National Institute of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (NIHERST) presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award (2000) for lifelong commitment to agricultural research and development.
Julian Duncan was born in St. Vincent on December 9th 1933. In an era without television, he read, used his imagination, and enjoyed the outdoors. He attended St. Vincent Boys’ Grammar School, where he played badminton competitively.
In 1957, he entered the University College of the West Indies, Jamaica, to read for a bachelor of science degree. He was the first recipient of the Sir James Irvine Memorial Scholarship and pursued a doctoral degree at St. Andrew’s University, Scotland. His research developed a brilliant new premise for nuclear division of fungus for which no precise theory yet existed.
Duncan became a botany lecturer at UWI in 1963. He trained generations of undergraduate and postgraduate students over a 35-year period and held senior administrative positions. He was a highly effective educator with his lucid lectures and scientific demonstrations. He encouraged students to think, read, and be all-rounded.
He studied plant tissue culture techniques at Freie University in Berlin, Germany, and later updated this expertise in Brazil. He introduced the specialization via a plant propagation course and set up the UWI Biotechnology Unit, which trained many young scientists in this field. He also established the region’s first semi-commercial tissue culture laboratory.
Retired since 1999, he was a former board member of the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute, Institute of Marine Affairs, and Asa Wright Nature Centre. He remains active in academia and research, and represents Trinidad and Tobago on the Board of Governors of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.
Duncan authored a book on local flowers and published several articles in recognised scientific journals. In his leisure time, he does woodwork and assists his church. His personal philosophy is “With God, all things are possible”. He suggests that the word “can’t” should be replaced by “I have not tried” and advises young people to strive to be themselves.