Date of Birth: 29th Nov 1945

Ramsey Saunders
T+T Icons In Science & Technology Volume II

Professor Ramsey Saunders is a physicist, internationally recognised as both a research scientist and an educator. He introduced the world’s first undergraduate Medical Physics programme at The University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine and developed materials sciences, medical physics, bioengineering and environmental physics as disciplines in the Physics Department.

Ramsey Saunders was born on 29th November, 1945 in Arima, Trinidad. He attended Arima Boys’ Government School and won a Government Exhibition to St. Mary’s College, where he excelled under Fr. Ivan Galt’s tutelage. He attended UWI, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago and in 1968 finished his Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Physics and Chemistry with First Class Honours. He won a Commonwealth Scholarship to the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London. There, he obtained both a Diploma and his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Applied Optics in 1969 and 1971 respectively. This was followed by an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship at the Physiologisches Institut1 at the Freie Universitat Berlin.2

With the Institute’s Applied Optics Group, he produced the first electrophysiological3 proof of Maxwell’s colour theory4. He invented a spectral energy machine5, which was used in Berlin for two decades after he left. He was also Senior Scientist at the Universitat under the auspices of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.6

In 1978, Saunders returned to Trinidad and Tobago and became Professor of Physics at UWI. As Head of the Physics Department and later Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, he championed new curricula and spearheaded research projects in several disciplines. He supervised research to improve the process of the drying of local timbers. He used graphite waste to produce pencils, dry cell batteries and a lubricant better than any available that time. He initiated work on asphalt and the university’s Asphalt Research Group produced 12 commercially relevant products.

Professor Saunders also studied the effects of noise pollution and helped introduce Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices (SQUIDS)7 locally for the diagnosis of cardiac problems. He patented a cream that improved scoliosis8 screening and designed a device to provide daytime lighting using solar energy. He was part of the international research group that, in 2004, was the first to replicate the nano-plaques9 of Alzheimer’s disease, a significant development in finding treatment. He was also the group-leader of another research team working on water disinfection using solar energy.

He served as a founding member of the Caribbean Academy of Sciences, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Institute of Marine Affairs in Trinidad and Tobago, and a member of the Nobel Committee for Physics, even being invited to make nominations for the Nobel Prize in Physics on three occasions.

In 2005, Professor Saunders received the Pinnacle Award for Sustained Achievement in Pure and Applied Physics from the National Coalition On Caribbean Affairs (NCOCA) in Washington DC. To students considering a career in science, Professor Saunders advises that “the sky is the limit for any individual once he or she can identify an area of interest.”




  1. Institute of Physiology
  2. Free University of Berlin
  3. Electric activity associated with a bodily part or function
  4. James Clerk Maxwell confirmed the existence of primary colours and did work on colour-blindness, proving that it was caused by blindness to red light only
  5. Spectrometers analyse and record electromagnetic waves
  6. German Research Partnership
  7. Devices used to measure extremely small magnetic fields
  8. A medical condition involving severe deformity of the spine’s curvature. It can be present at birth, develop spontaneously or occur as a side effect of another condition.
  9. Properly called amyloid plaques, these are protein deposits characteristic of certain diseases, including Alzheimer’s. They are not well understood.
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