Julian Duncan (Date of Birth: 9th Dec 1933)

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Julian Duncan was born in St. Vincent on December 9th 1933. He attended St. Vincent Boys’ Grammar School. After completing school, he taught geography at secondary school. He entered the University College of the West Indies (UCWI), Jamaica in 1957 and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Botany and Zoology in 1960.

The first recipient of the Sir James Irvine Memorial Scholarship, he obtained a doctorate in Fungal Genetics and Cytology at St Andrews University, Scotland in 1963. His Ph.D. thesis researched nuclear division in fungi for which no precise theory yet existed and he published a new hypothesis.

Duncan returned to the Caribbean in 1963 and began lecturing at the UWI, St. Augustine. In 1975 he underwent training in the practices of plant tissue culture at Freie Universitat in Berlin, Germany. He lectured briefly at the University of Reading, Britain and returned to Trinidad in 1976 to introduce a new undergraduate course in plant propagation.

He set up a small laboratory for tissue culture applications and updated his training in Piracicaba, Brazil in 1980. With the support of state and international agencies, he later established the UWI Biotechnology Research Programme and built a larger, modern facility to develop local capability. He also helped establish in 1990 the first semi-commercial plant biotechnology facility in CARICOM.

Apart from introducing new courses in botany, supervising post-graduate students and holding senior administrative positions, Duncan founded the UWI Biological Society. He also served on the boards of the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute, Institute of Marine Affairs and Asa Wright Nature Centre. He was the National Co-ordinator of the OAS Multinational Project in Biotechnology and Food (1990-1996).

In 1994 he received the inaugural UWI Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and Administration. In 2000, he received a NIHERST Lifetime Achievement Award for lifelong commitment to plant biotechnology.

Duncan authored a book on local flowers and published several articles in recognised scientific journals. Retired since 1999, he remains active in teaching and research, and represents Trinidad and Tobago on the Board of Governors of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB).