Black race and science

Revising history doesn’t change the present.

Black governments must fund science as a priority

by Robert D. Lucas, Ph.D.

Recently, there was a series of articles in the local newspapers (by Messrs Michael Dingwall and Rahim Shabazz), concerning the role of the black race in the advancement of science. I have some comments to make as a scientist. Let me first state that scientist are seekers of the truth. Scientists deal with facts and not sentiments.

Dingwall is correct when he states that as a race, black people continue to lag in the field of science and technology and to quote him: “The black man has been virtually absent where innovations in science and technology are concerned.”

The foregoing is a statement of fact and no amount of wishful thinking by Shabazz or Mr. Orlando Marville is going to alter the situation. The black race is always harping on the past. It is time to look forward ( I am not saying that one should forget the past) and make efforts to change the situation.  At one time, Europeans were considered to be little more than savages by the Chinese and Muslims when these peoples were leaders of the known world. The Europeans pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps. The achievement by the Europeans was led by their scientists.

In the last five-hundred years, Europeans have produced hundreds of thousands of scientists (Galileo, Newton, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch, Lord Rutherford, Einstein, and Paul Dirac to mention a few). The number of scientists produced by the other races of the world during this time has been miniscule. Indeed, the Chinese and Indians, fearing that they would have been left behind if they did not join the bandwagon, have made serious efforts to increase their scientific output. The Chinese and Indians have produced rockets and have acquired nuclear expertise.

The black race has to do the same or elsewise be relegated to the sidelines of history.

In the West Indies less than one percent of the national gross domestic product (GDP) is given over to the advancement of science. In Africa, in Rwanda, a serious effort is being made by President Paul Kagami to change things. Between five and ten percent of Rwanda’s GDP is given over to science and technology. In the West Indies, most of the policy makers do not understand science and as matter of fact, do not appear to want to understand so. This is not surprising; most of them are either lawyers or economists. A leaf should be taken from the Singaporean’s book of experiences. Singapore’s former Premier, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew had a colonial experience similar to that of the West Indies. Unlike the policy makers in the West Indies, Lee Kuan Yew, had vision and foresight.

Shabazz claims in paragraph four of his article that: “Archaeologists also discovered 14 centuries ago, the African population was using tetracycline……to treat respiratory infections……Nubian mummies were found to contain significant levels of Tetracycline.’

A few of the questions I would like Shabazz to answer are as follows:  Why has this knowledge not been passed down to the present day Nuba of Sudan? Was the antibiotic purified? Was the molecular structure elucidated?

At this point I am going to explain some microbial succession (think of plant succession in ecology) for Shabazz. Tetracycline is a broad spectrum antibiotic produced by the Streptomyces genus (filamentous  bacteria) of Actinobacteria. Streptomyces (spp) are wide spread in nature and occur on fruits, vegetables and cereal grains and in the soil. When produce is stored, under favorable conditions produced initially by molds, Streptomyces elaborate (produce) antibiotics. The antibiotics of necessity would contaminate the produce that, they are in contact with. Therefore, a salve made from such material would have antibiotic properties. The African shamans in using any such concoction, would know that it alleviated certain diseases, but would not have known what the active ingredients were. India has the Neame tree. Knowledge of its properties have been handed down and recently the active ingredients have been isolated. Similarly the Chinese also. So to make a claim for originality is a moot point.

Robert D. Lucas, Ph.D.
Food biotechnologist.
Bridgetown, Barbados

Editor’s note: The subtitles were added by BFP and some paragraph breaks were changed for readability. No other wording changes were made. The following was added:

Photo: Percy L. Julian (1899-1975), a pioneering black research chemist.

On the day that Percy L. Julian graduated at the top of his class at DePauw University, his great-grandmother bared her shoulders and, for the first time, showed him the deep scars that remained from a beating she had received as a slave during the last days of the Civil War. She then clutched his Phi Beta Kappa key in her hand and said, “This is worth all the scars.”

…continue reading the NY Times article: Reclaiming a Black Research Scientist’s Forgotten Legacy



Filed under Africa, Barbados, Culture & Race Issues, History, Race

6 responses to “Black race and science

  1. Mervin Yearwood

    . ..Blacks to the contrary have been and always lead in scientific development case in point the cell phone a major development of the twentieth century was developed by Dr.Sampson, Dr.Sampson is also a nuclear physicist an American
    Like Dr.Sampson and countless Black Scientist work for corporations who make them sign over intellectual rights to the company .These people are rarely cited for the work that they were the genius of
    I do not point fingers at our Black Scientist and Journalist it is you that have to write they history of these unsung heroes.The creation and dissemination of journals and newsletters etc.
    People who do achieve in the field should foster the people from the community to pursue academics and science

  2. reality

    Black men just interested in sexing and abusing black women,working for just enough to sustain themselves, fighting and killing other black men then complaining about other races keeping them down.

  3. DeBagLady

    The author is right when he cites that the early Europeans were intellectually inferior in relative speak, but what he neglected to mention is that their coming of age in the arts and sciences was made possible by a superior knowledge that they would claim as their own – the knowledge of the Ancient Black Egyptians. Dr. Lucas, it is not about harping on the past; it is about reclaiming a legacy which has been vehemently denied by the Western world. We are so fat on European history and American instruction. We have been so disoriented by the processes of colonization and enslavement that we have no true idea of who we are as a race. I would argue that this ‘hidden knowledge’ has contributed in diverse ways to stunting our development as a people. The African past is colored by destructive stereotypes. For centuries, our men have been ignorant, lazy and weak. Our women are wily whores. We start to believe it. We enact these stereotypes, and on top of that, adopt the basest aspects of foreign cultures that are held to be ‘better.’

    Check out Richard Bernal’s Black Athena and George G. M James’ Stolen Legacy.

    They don’t teach us this stuff in school.

  4. robert lucas

    The Ancients did not put science on a rational footing. You only have think of the Alchemist.The ancients did not know anything of the germ theory of disease. If the Ancients knew so much why did they not solve the problems of river blindness, yellow fever, typhoid etc. I never stated that blacks did not contribute.Compared with the number of Europeans who discovered things in science., the numbers of scientists of other races are miniscule in the scientific field. Did the blacks have input into the germ theory of disease, nuclear power, the laser,the transistor, the computer, genetic engineering,the internet, the electron microscope, oil well exploitation( the chinese invented the fore runner of the oil rig).I am only mentioning a few of the things invented by the Europeans and blacks had no hand in any of them.
    Robert.D. Lucas.

    Chinese did, they developed the forerunner of the rig), the classification of plants and animals(taxonomy) I am only naming a few of the things done by the Europeans.

    engineering,the aero-plane, the radio,the steam engine,

  5. DeBagLady

    Well, who knows what kind of information was ‘lost’ when Alexander and Aristotle invaded Egypt? I gather that you haven’t bothered to read any of the suggested texts, but if you want to talk facts … fine.

    1. Luddites in the Caribbean: Left; Right; Center? Well, I cannot dispute the fact that investments in R&D (Research & Development) in the West Indies have been negligible. But the reality is, large portions of ‘small budgets’ are injected into areas for which voter dissent will constitute a loss for one and a win for the other. Those areas tend to be health, education, and social welfare.

    2.I might not be a ‘scientist’, but I understand that current trends in the global political economy have been forcing countries to hop on the sci-tech bandwagon. R&D has been one of the major factors why countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRIC) have been able to emerge as dominant players in the world economy, while others as you said have been/ are being sidelined. The other factors aiding BRIC dominance,of course, would include lots and lots of land space and a massive reserve of cheap labor … great inputs for any economy. To add to that, there are certain (non-democratic) governance structures in place- China mainly- which make it a heck of a lot easier to get things done i.e. whereas political elites in the W.I still depend on popular support for winning elections. The merits and demerits of dictatorship as a development tool have been debated everywhere, and you also failed to mention that Singaporean prosperity was jump-started under Mr. Yew‘s authoritarian style government.

    3.Somebody said to me that INNOVATION in this region is a bad word, because it’s risky business. Well, duh! This particular view about ‘risky innovation’ is supported by a dogmatic, monolithic sect in both the public and private sectors … a sect worse than any dim-witted colonial administration, an ‘old-guard’ with a vested interest in seeing some things remain as they are [pelting way good $$$ on hackneyed projects].

    So, if you want to have a discussion about West Indian governments foundering on policy re sci-tech innovation, do consider some of the above.

  6. Anonymous

    R. Lucas
    The real Mccoy? A black deroiter who invented the piston used in GM cars, First open heart surgery. The mechanism used in traffic lights, Blood plasma concept, all the best designers at Fords and GM?
    It is the white man who started spreading diseases that almost wiped out Africa along with slavery.
    Want to hear of more?

    It is the desructive and racist laws that started in the Uk that denegraded the black man and it is coming back to haunt us today.