William Freeman (4th May 1909 - 15th Dec 1988)

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William Edwin Freeman was born on May 4th 1909 in Kent, England. His father was a former Director of Agriculture in Trinidad and Tobago so he briefly attended a primary school based at Queen’s Royal College. He continued his schooling in England.

He studied at the University of London and at Cambridge University and gained a bachelor’s degree with first class honours in botany. At Cambridge, he captained the rugby team and excelled on the sculling team. He undertook postgraduate training at Cambridge and at the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture, where he completed a thesis on cocoa.

From 1931 as a plant-breeding probationer, Freeman conducted research throughout Africa. He did experimental work on groundnuts, tobacco, sorghum and cotton in Northern Nigeria; supervised banana, oil palm, rubber and cocoa plantations in British Cameroon; conducted fertiliser trials in Mauritius; and established quinine plantations in Southern Nigeria and Cameroon. He retired as Senior Botanist in 1953.

He returned to Trinidad in 1954 and became a tutor in crop husbandry at the Eastern Caribbean Farm Institute (now Eastern Caribbean Institute of Agriculture and Forestry) in Centeno. In 1956 he joined the Cocoa Board as a research officer and engaged in the breeding of improved cocoa clones and hybrid seedlings.

When the Board ceased operations in 1968, Freeman continued his work at the Ministry of Agriculture until retirement in 1978. After years of experimentation he developed the prized Trinidad Select Hybrid (TSH). According to the Ministry, eight commercialised TSH varieties have high yield, excellent flavour and resistance to Ceratocystis wilt and Witches’ Broom diseases.

He also pioneered the introduction of high density planting systems for cocoa. This work was of significance to all cocoa growing nations, but mostly to Trinidad, which boasts of producing the finest quality cocoa in the world.

Freeman derived great satisfaction from his work and research. He emphasised simplicity and his advice was, “If there are two words with the same meaning, always use the smaller one.” He was an active member of the Horticultural Society of Trinidad and Tobago. He was honoured by the Agricultural Society of Trinidad and Tobago and also by the University of the West Indies, which named a street after him.

He passed away in 1988 and was bestowed the Chaconia Medal (Gold) in 1991 for his contribution to agriculture.