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Dr. Joseph Edsel Edmunds

Dr. Joseph Edsel Edmunds



Dr. Joseph Edsel Edmunds

Born:   1st July 1935 in St. Lucia

Ambassador Dr. Joseph Edsel Edmunds is a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico (BSA in Agronomy) and Cornell University (MSc and Ph.D in Plant Pathology and Nematology respectively). He has presented, published and participated in several projects related to science and technology, agriculture, education, democracy and governance, and youth leadership activities relevant to the Caribbean and international affairs. His book entitled “The Triangle of Success: For our Youth, Leaders of Tomorrow” has been acclaimed by distinguished educators, youth leaders, teachers and parents as a scholarly and practical guide for the development of youth, motivating and empowering them in the achievement of their potential. In addition to his work as a scientist, statesman, diplomat and leader, he has published a book of poems and has exhibited his paintings in the USA, Canada and the Caribbean. He has been sited as a Pioneer in the Conservation Movement in St Lucia and a Caribbean Icon in Science, Research and Innovation. 

Source: Caribbean Mentorship Institute

Edsel Edmunds – Nematologist

Dr. Joseph Edsel Edmunds is a scientist, artist, author, poet, educator, and diplomat – a true Renaissance Man. He attests his successful cross into various fields by his statement “all disciplines are grounded in Science.” By using his scientific foundation and applying scientific principles he was able to marry the sciences and the arts.

Dr. Edmunds was born on 1st July 1935. He was trained as a scientist, and was a pioneer in the teaching of biology and zoology at St. Mary’s College in St Lucia. He contemplated studying law or medicine but accepted a scholarship to study agriculture at the University of Puerto Rico where, in addition to receiving a B.Sc. in that field, he also acquired proficiency in the Spanish language. He subsequently received a scholarship to study at Cornell University where he obtained a M.Sc. degree in Plant Pathology and Ph.D. in Nematology. His main thesis was on the interaction of nematodes (microscopic round worms) with fungi and their role in plant diseases.

As a specialist in nematology, his first assignment in the Caribbean was at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine campus in Trinidad as a Research Fellow. There he discovered for the first time that the citrus nematode was causing enormous damage to the citrus industry in that country. He recommended control measures in citrus nurseries and plantations.

At the request of the Windward Islands Banana Growers Association (WINBAN), he was seconded from the University of the West Indies to investigate damage caused by nematodes to bananas. He conducted the first comprehensive survey of nematodes affecting cultivated crops in the Windward Islands and was elevated to the position of Director of the Research and Development Center for the banana industry. According to a report by a WINBAN Financial Analyst, the Center’s contribution to the banana industry of the Windward Islands was calculated in millions of dollars.

As a result of his outstanding contribution to the field of nematology and his many scientific publications in that field, a nematode which was previously unknown to science was named Longidorus edmunsi in his honour by an English nematologist. Following from his successes in agricultural research and nematology, he traveled to the South Pacific, Cameroon, Nigeria, Latin America and the islands of the Caribbean as a consultant to various international organizations.

In the course of his eighteen years as a scientist, he served as a Senator in the Government of St. Lucia for five years and was subsequently appointed as Ambassador of St. Lucia to the United Nations, the Organization of American States and the United States. As the first resident Ambassador of his country in Washington, he established the Embassy of St. Lucia in the nation’s capital. He became the Dean of the Caribbean Diplomatic Corps and the Vice Dean of the entire Diplomatic Corps in Washington.

Various awards have been conferred upon Dr. Edmunds including the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his contribution to science, the Bernado O’Higgins Grand Cross Award given by the Government of Chile for strengthening Caribbean/Latin American relationships, and the “Honor Del Merito” given by the Association for Collaboration in Banana Research in Latin America and the Caribbean (ACORBAT) for his outstanding work in banana research. He received an “Outstanding Service’ award as President and founding member of the Organization of Tropical American Nematologists (OTAN). Additionally, he was presented with the St. Lucia National Trust Award for his contribution as a pioneer in the conservation movement in St. Lucia and the founding member of the Trust.

In his free time, Dr. Edmunds writes poetry and paints. He has published a book of 99 poems entitled Many Horizons and many of his works of art have been exhibited in various galleries in the United States. Though not formally trained as an artist, he paints “applying scientific principles and using unusual materials such as ice, humus, ash, and aluminium foil.” He tries to be as innovative as possible displaying his works of art outside the walls of his house and in his yard. His work reflects his originality, passion, and strong Caribbean influence. He espouses that his creative artistic talents result from the use of “the right side of the brain, a side which is rarely used by most of us”

His ultimate goal in life is to “achieve inner peace”, and this he accomplishes by Transcendental Meditation. He also practises Reflexology and Reiki. His philosophy is “Global Humanism.” He says that, “basic scientific principles should be used to solve the problems of today by first defining the problems and systematically resolving them only after a clear definition of prevailing situations.” He is perturbed by the lack of discipline being displayed by students of the Caribbean and recommends the reintroduction of civics and ethics as a vital part of the educational system. He advises youth to realize that there is a time for work and a time for play- that in order to achieve success you must set goals, believe in yourself, and have an action plan. This is the subject of his book entitled The Triangle of Success. He states that, “when confronted by challenges, a disciplined mind will allow you to overcome everything.” He however cautions that, “the more you study, the more you should realize that there is so much you do not know and that there is no end to learning. It should be a continuous process.”

Source: Trinidad & Tobago Icons in Science & Technology: Vol 2

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