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.
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