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Did you know that it was a Jamaican who:


Photo courtesy of Dr. Paula Tennant

1.Developed the ortanique

2.Developed several breeds of cattle that now thrive in the Tropics

3.Created Canasol, a ganja-based eyedrop for glaucoma treatment

4.Won the Nobel Peace Prize

5.Created the JaipurKnee, an affordable prosthetic knee

6.Was the first person in the Caribbean to create a bio-engineered fruit

7.Discovered the cause of the disease Kwashiorkor

8.Identified the Aedes Aegypti mosquito as the carrier of dengue fever

9.Created a formula that will eliminate prostate cancer

10.Isolated a compound to fight several types of cancer such as melanoma, lung and  breast cancer

Everyone knows that Jamaica is the land of Reggae Musicians and Olympic Sprinters. But fewer people are aware that Jamaica is also home to several notable scientists and inventors. This list introduces just ten of the remarkable creative achievements that Jamaica has produced.

The Ortanique


Photo by Marco Teixeira de Freitas

Have you ever tasted an ortanique? This citrus fruit, which is a cross between a tangerine and an orange, was originally developed in the hills of Mandeville, Jamaica by David Daniel Phillips, JP, in the late 19th century. Phillips, who happens to be the grand uncle to the current Minister of Finance of Jamaica, Dr. Peter Phillips, originally decided to call the fruit a ‘tangelo. This name was later changed to ortanique, which is the name it is known by today.

Most ortaniques are still grown in the parish of Manchester in Jamaica. Since this fruit thrives in altitudes of 100ft or more, the cool climate and bauxite rich soils are ideal for the growing of this crop. Efforts to grow the fruit elsewhere have failed to reproduce the distinctive flavor of Manchester grown ortaniques.

2          Cattle – bred for the Tropics


Photo by USDAgov

The Jamaica Hope, the Jamaica Red and Jamaica Black are three breeds of cattle specifically developed to live in tropical conditions. They are the work of scientist Dr. Thomas P. Lecky. In 1925,  Lecky noticed that the cattle being raised in Jamaica were slow to mature, produced no more than 4 litres of milk per day, and had little meat around the haunches and ribs. On the other hand, they were strong, excellent for hauling carts, and were also resistant to tick fever and other tropical diseases.

It was at this time that Lecky decided to develop an animal that was better suited for Jamaican needs. After migrating to study animal genetics at McGill University in Montreal, and Animal Husbandry at The University of Toronto, he returned to Jamaica to begin his cross-breeding experiments. Finally, in the 1950s, after twenty years of work, he produced the Jamaica Hope.

This breed, the first to be developed, was small enough to navigate the hillsides, could produce as much as 12 litres of milk per day, was resistant to diseases and adapted to the tropics. Lecky’s work revolutionized the dairy industry in Jamaica and caught the attention of scientists from around the world who came to examine his work.

3          Canasol, a ganja-based eye-drop for glaucoma treatment

Photo by Alexodus

Photo by Alexodus

Canasol was developed through the hard work and scientific research of two notable Jamaicans: pharmacologist, Professor Manley West, and ophthalmologist, Dr Albert Lockhart. It was an important breakthrough drug as it was the first glaucoma eye medication in the Caribbean to be developed at UWI, Mona, and it does not induce the negative side effects that similar synthetic drugs are known for.

Professor West remembers being told by country folk that washing their eyes in ganja water made them see better, and fishermen claimed that drinking ganja tea improved their vision, particularly at night. Meanwhile, Dr. Lockhart noted that his Rastafarian patients who used ganja, had few incidences of glaucoma. From these observations, the two men became interested in working with ganja in order to discover its potential medical benefits. Ten years later, Canasol was the result.

4          The Nobel Peace Prize for Work against Climate Change

Were you aware that a Jamaican has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? In 2007, Professor Anthony Chen was part of a group that received The Nobel Peace Prize jointly with former US Vice President Al Gore. The group is the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), and they were recognized “for their efforts to spread information about climate change, and to lay the foundations for counteracting such change.”

5          The JaipurKnee, an affordable prosthetic knee

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

In 2009, Joel Sadler, who was only 25 years old, along with his American teammates Eric Thorsell, Ayo Roberts and Angelo Szychowski created an affordable artificial knee that is being used in India by thousands of amputees. The JaipurKnee costs only US$20, as opposed to high end titanium joints made in the US that can cost anywhere upwards of US$10,000.

The prosthesis was developed by Stanford University in collaboration with the Jaipur Foot Group, which is a charity that provides prostheses to Indian amputees.

The young men developed the idea while working on a class project in January 2008 as part of their Masters Degree Program. On a trip to India, they met amputee, 17 yr old Kamal who inspired them to make a low cost artificial knee containing just five high performance plastic parts, and four nuts and bolts. It was built to last a minimum of 3 years with normal use.

The JaipurKnee was rated number 18 on the Time Magazine 50 best inventions of 2009.

6         The Solo Sunrise, a disease resistant papaya


Photo courtesy of Dr. Paula Tennant

The Solo Sunrise is a strain of papaya that is resistant to the devastating Ring Spot disease. This fruit was developed by Dr. Paula Tennant, Jamaican plant biotechnologist.

When the Ring Spot disease threatened to wipe out papaya crops across Jamaica, the Jamaican government solicited advice from Cornell University, which set up a lab at the University to study this problem.  Tennant was selected to go and work in that lab. She was able to identify the features of the Jamaican strain of virus, which was a mutated version of the strains seen in other countries. The usual solution to the problem, if unable to cure the disease, would be to find a resistant fruit, or develop an immune papaya through cross-breeding, Efforts in this area were proving unsuccessful.

Through Cornell, Tennant then successfully learned how to manipulate the genes of the fruit to create a genetically modified, disease resistant strain. She is the first person in the Caribbean to develop a bio-engineered product.

7          Kwashiorkor identified as a protein deficiency disease

Photo by Teseum

Photo by Teseum

Most of the developed world has never encountered, Kwashiorkor. However, this disease was the cause of a great deal of suffering in Africa in 1929, when Jamaican medical doctor, Dr. Cicely Williams, first identified its cause, and set about educating persons on how to prevent it.

It was while working in Ghana, where she spent seven years, that she first encountered this disease, which the locals had named kwashiorkor. She learned that the name meant ‘the sickness a child gets when the next baby is born‘. Through her investigations, Williams was able to determine that kwashiorkor was caused by a lack of protein. She began to treat patients with a mixture of beans and grain. Her discovery of the cause of this disease, and her treatment of it, was one of the greatest discoveries of the 20th century.

8          Aedes Aegypti discovered to be the carrier of Dengue fever


Photo by Thell

If you are aware that dengue fever is spread by the aedes aegypti breed of mosquito, then you have benefited from the research of Jamaican microbiologist, pathologist and medical doctor, Professor Louis Grant.

In the 1940s, a strange fever began to present itself in Jamaica. Grant was able to identify it as dengue fever but no-one knew how it had arrived in Jamaica. His research led him to conclude that it was being spread by the aedes aegypti mosquito, the breed responsible for spreading yellow fever. Through a public education campaign he was able to control this disease and greatly reduce its spread.

9         Cure for Prostate cancer


Photo by MiriaGrunick

A cure for prostate cancer is already in the making, and Jamaica scientist Dr. Henry Lowe is responsible. In 2010, Lowe announced that he had created a cancer-fighting formula from the main ingredient in the plant known as Ball moss, and that this formula would eliminate prostate cancer. In February 2012, Lowe made the product available in nutraceutical form. The product is called Alpha Prostate Formula 1 and it is made under the Eden Gardens Brand. The product has been certified under FDA approved guidelines and is certified for export to the USA and other countries.

10  A Cure for a range of cancers.

In 2010, Dr. Lawrence Williams announced that he had been awarded an international patent on a compound isolated from the Guinea Hen Weed. The Jamaican Scientific Research Council says that this complex has the ability to kill a wide range of cancers including melanoma, lung and breast cancer.

Williams has already dedicated more than 13 years to this research. The next stage involves conducting clinical trials of the compound and development of a pharmaceutical agent. Rights to the patent are shared by Dr. George Levy, a Jamaican-born doctor living in the United States.

Johnson, A. (2001) Great Jamaicans, Book II, Scientists, Kingston: TeeJay Ltd.—Dr-Henry-Lowe-launches-nutraceutical-industry-with-7-products_10869398

photo credit: Marcos Teixeira de Freitas via photopin cc
photo credit: USDAgov via photopin cc
photo credit: Alexodus via photopin cc
photo credit: Thell via photopin cc
photo credit: Teseum via photopin cc
photo credit: MiriaGrunick via photopin cc

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