| "Being challenged and rising to new heights - that's what chemistry is all about." - Bertram Fraser Reid
February is dubbed Black History Month, honouring the many black people who have made an invaluable contribution to fighting directly and indirectly against the prevalence of white domination in their societies. We salute Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Bob Marley, Marcus Garvey and others are highlighted at this time.
However, we at Clarendon College take this opportunity to highlight the prominent past students who have been carrying the torch of academia, which was lit by its founder Rev. Lester Davy on February 2, 1942. Today we salute Professor Bertram Oliver Fraser-Reid, a black Chemist and an accomplished musician on the pipe organ and the piano who was nominated 1998 for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and has visited 42 countries as an invited Lecturer of Scientific Symposia.
A Remarkable Man
February 23 marks the day when Prof. Bertram O. Fraser-Reid was born in 1934 to William (an elementary school principal) and Laura Reid (a teacher) at Bryce in Manchester. His name was compounded with Fraser, his mother’s surname by his father, in tribute of their twenty years together, for his mother died when he was only nine months old. Bert received his secondary schooling first at Excelsior School (1946-1947) and then at Clarendon College (1947-1951). Upon graduating he returned to Clarendon College as a Junior Teacher, remaining there for five years before going to Canada in 1956 to study at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. He made it there on a one-way ticket provided by his siblings, and one semester’s fees which had been saved in the Post Office Bank of Chapelton for him by “Miss Vie” Jackson, a Chapelton merchant.
Bert majored in Chemistry in spite of the fact that the subject, and also Physics had not been offered during his time at Clarendon College. Three years later he graduated from Queens with first-class honours in a subject area that he taught himself, winning a University Scholarship that enabled him to remain and pursue a Masters Degree. He completed this in 1961 and was awarded a National Research Council of Canada Fellowship for Ph. D studies which he undertook at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, under the guidance of Prof. R. U. Lemieux. Three years later he completed the programme, and was awarded a Canadian National Research Council Overseas Postdoctoral Fellowship which took him to London (1964-1966) for advanced training in the laboratory of Prof. (later Sir) Derek Barton (Nobel Laurete, 1969) at Imperial College of Science and Technology, University of London. It is quite ironic how Bert has been so successful in his studies when his High School Principal, C. L. Stuart’s recommendation noted, truthfully, that he was “never more than average at general intellectual activities” but the he possessed “a high degree of interest and ability in aesthetic subject, particularly Music.”
Bert is one black academic of whom we are justly proud and we experience a special thrill to know that he walked on the grounds that we now walk at our noble institution Clarendon College. We take pleasure in saluting him in this Black History Month, and also coincidentally the month of his birth.
In 1988, he and his collaborators (known amusingly as Fraser-Reid’s Rowdies) discovered a novel procedure that facilitated the preparation of “complex carbohydrates” which led to a nomination for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
In 1996 Fraser-Reid retired from Duke to become founding President and Director of Natural Products and Glycotechnology Research Institute, Inc. (NPG), in Research Triangle Park, N.C. The Institute, now located at Centennial Campus (a $40 million Biotech Park affiliated with North Carolina State University), is a non-profit organization that focuses on the carbohydrate chemistry/biology related to Third World tropical parasitic diseases, with special emphasis on developing a carbohydrate-based vaccine against malaria.
In May, 2000 Fraser-Reid was chosen as a member of a Consortium of six international scientists funded by the prestigious “Human Sciences Frontier Programme Organization” of Europe, to launch an assault on the malaria problem with the aim of developing a carbohydrate-based anti-malaria vaccine. The international multi-disciplinary Consortium include one scientist each from Japan (microbiology), Australia (immunology), Germany (parasitology), Britain and Switzerland (biochemistry), and Fraser-Reid in the USA(chemistry).
(1) recipient of the Haworth Memorial Medal and Lectureship of the Royal Society of Chemistry, United Kingdom (the premiere worldwide award in carbohydrate chemistry), awarded bi-annually
(2) elected Fellow of the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science;
(3) For outstanding leadership in the field of science, Institute of Caribbean Studies, Washington, D.C.;
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Forgotten Nikki Allison
| Sep 8th, 2007
I am really glad that you wrote this. So often around black history month, people focus all of thier attention on the superstars, MLK, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela. They were the glamerous ones, the ones in the public spotlight. It is so easy to forget about all of the people that work in silence, even though their work is just as important. I did not know of or even ever hear about Dr. Fraser-Ried, but I am so glad that I now have. What a phenomenal man. If I could accomplish even a fraction of what he accomplished in his life I would truly be blessed.
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