Dreamers Among Us -
Prof. Louis Grant,
1913 - 1993
1972: Prof. Louis Grant, chairman of the University
Hospital Board and Professor of Microbiology, UWI, speaking at the
official opening of the School of Physiotherapy.
The saying "we likkle but we tallawah" can be applied
to many aspects of Jamaican life, not the least of which is Jamaica's
contribution to world science. This article, the first in a two-part
series featuring Jamaican scientists, considers the work of Professor
Louis Grant, microbiologist, one of those whose work had immense local and
PROF. LOUIS GRANT,
M.D., C.H., M.P.H., DIP BACT., FAPHA, F.C. PATH, F.A.A.N.
A microbiologist and pathologist, Prof. Louis Grant was
affiliated with the University of the West Indies for 20 years where he
achieved the highest academic honour, being named professor emeritus in
microbiology. Young Louis Grant was surrounded by science from an early
age born in Vere, Clarendon in 1913, his father worked in a chemical
laboratory at the Appleton Estate. As a student, Grant showed promise and
received the Vere Trust scholarship to attend Jamaica College. He went on
to Edinburgh University in Scotland and later specialised in tropical
microbiology at the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Prof.
Grant then returned to Jamaica serving his country as a medical doctor,
microbiologist and pathologist.
In the 1940s Dr. Grant
dreamed of a Jamaica with less disease and he decided to focus on
tuberculosis a disease then plaguing the island. He asked the World
Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF for a grant to begin an inoculation
campaign amongst Jamaican children. Joined by Dr. Ronald Lampart, Dr.
Grant completed a mass vaccination that is credited with helping to break
the cycle of infection and halt the spread of the dreaded disease.
|1964: Prof. Louis Grant speaking at a luncheon held by
the Society of Medical Technologists (UWI) at the Flamingo Hotel in
honour of his recent appointment to the new chair of Microbiology at
Groundbreaking Research On Three Diseases
During the decade of the
1960s, Dr. Grant became a full professor of microbiology at the University
of the West Indies, Mona. Three diseases came to his attention. Two
affected the island's general population and one its horse
In the early 1960s many
Jamaicans began to fall ill with severe fevers. Some, who seemed otherwise
healthy, soon died. Through intensive research Dr. Grant discovered that
this disease was spread through contact with the urine of infected
animals. Rats were immune to it and therefore major carriers of the virus.
Dr. Grant deduced that rats tend to urinate after eating in kitchens and this way people
would consume food on which rats might have already urinated. There is no
cure for viruses, the most doctors can do is make the patient comfortable
while the body fights off the infection. The leptospirosis virus, if not
rejected by the body immediately on contact, would then enter the blood
stream, multiply and possibly lead to death. Dr. Grant quickly spread
the word, cautioning against rats entering kitchens and the danger of
leaving food exposed. This public education campaign helped contain the
spread of the disease, outbreaks of which have since been
In the mid-1960s, reports of a disease afflicting horses on the
eastern side of the island began to surface. Prof. Grant instituted
quarantine on the movement of horses, donkeys and mules from that region.
After much laboratory investigation he discovered that the horses were
suffering from a virus known as equine encephalitis, which could not be
spread to humans but could cause great damage to Jamaica's horse
population. He recommended further measures for containment, thereby
preventing the spread of the virus and the ruination of Jamaica's
billion-dollar horse industry. He also acquired a new title the
|1968: Prof. Louis Grant, centre, vice president of
Jamaica Blue Cross, addressing a meeting of the Board of Trustees of
the health plan at headquarters, Hope Road. Members, clockwise, are
Dr. B.A. Shoucair, Dr. M.W. Minott, Dr. Horace Penso, Dr. C.C.
Jones, Mr. Barrington Yee, Mr. Sydney Anderson, Dr. B.W. Minott, Mr.
Hector White, Mr. Douglas Kerr and Mr. Eric Richards.
late 1960s Jamaicans began to suffer from a strange fever. Dr. Grant
identified it as the dengue virus and concluded after much research that
it was transmitted via the aedes aegypti mosquito the same
mosquito that carries the deadly yellow fever virus. This led to another
public education campaign and the beginning of a research effort on the
study of arboviruses (viruses spread by blood-sucking insects) at
In the early
1970s Prof. Grant retired from the University of theWest Indies and moved
to Canada. From 1974 to 1977 he served as the Associate Medical Officer of
Health for the Niagara Regional Health Unit. From 1977 to 1984, he acted
as the Medical Officer of Health for the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit.
Throughout the decade he spent in Canada, Dr. Grant became an active
member of the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA) and the Canadian
Public Health Association (CPHA), a community activist and an advocate for
social justice. He gained increasing recognition and was eventually able
to attract large measures of funding to fulfil his lifelong dream of
establishing a public health clinic for low income Jamaicans. He returned
to Jamaica, bringing many international scientists with him who served at
reduced or no cost. His clinic, The Foundation for International Self-Help
(FISH), opened in Papine in 1985. Prof. Grant died in Jamaica in
1993, leaving behind a wife and four children and ending a career that
spanned 50 years in public service. He had authored over 90 scientific
publications in microbiology and public health and received the Gleaner
Special Award and the Pelican Award in 1985. Prof. Grant is remembered as
the father of Jamaican microbiology. In 1996, an award in the form of a
$1000CD scholarship and one-year membership in OPHA was established by the
OPHA in his honour. The award supports the postgraduate education of an
individual enrolled in a post-graduate programme in community or public
Sources: Johnson, A. (2001). Great
Jamaicans, Book II, Scientists. Kingston: TeeJay Ltd., www.temos.net/
|1967: Dr. V.A.
Cherrington, Professor pf Microbiology and head of the department of
Micro biology at the University of Idaho, shakes hands with Prof.
Louis Grant (centre), head of Microbiology at the University of the
West Indies. Mr. W.C. Cherrington, managing director of Goodyear
Jamaica Ltd., looks on. |
World Class Jamaican Scientists
Dr. Harold M.
Johnson, 1875-1974. Principal Medical Officer of health who successfully
led the fight against hookworm, ringworm, and malaria in Jamaica.
Williams, 1893-1992. Identified protein deficiency disease
* Dr. William E. McCulloch, 1896-1963: Found cure for Black Water
Fever and Trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness)
Dr. Leigh D. Lord,
1921 : Blood transfusion pioneer who also developed "Tia Maria", the
world renowned coffee liquor.
Prof. G. Lalor,
1930 : A physical chemist Prof. Lalor is known for the discovery of
haematoxylin, a substance extracted from logwood and used in the diagnosis
of cancer. Now retired from UWI, he served as a lecturer, creator of
UWIDITE, the system of distance learning, and of Jamaica's first
geo-chemical map, which uncovered many previously unidentified elements.
1974-1995: He was
the Pro-Vice Chancellor of UWI 1991: Became the second
principal of the Mona campus. He remains involved in various research
* Dr. Kenneth Richards, 1933
the "Richards Procedure" which made lung transplants feasible in
* Dr. Paula Tennant, 1967
: A biologist and
botanist, she developed the transgenic Jamaican solo sunrise papaya, which
has proven resistant to the Papaya Ringspot Virus in numerous field