Editorial

Prof Lalor's Order of Merit well deserved

Thursday, August 08, 2019

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The State's decision to invest Professor Gerald Lalor with Jamaica's third highest national honour — the Order of Merit (OM) — is most profound.

No one can successfully challenge the fact that this distinguished Jamaican scientist has, through his work, demonstrated to the world that the capacity for research and innovation at the highest level exists in this country.

Professor Lalor stands in the same league as other Jamaican scientists recognised as pioneers in their respective fields. To name a few, we speak of Drs Manley West and Albert Lockhart, who developed the glaucoma-fighting drug Canasol from the marijuana plant; Dr Cicely Williams, a specialist in nutrition, paediatrics and maternal care who discovered the child malnutrition syndrome kwashiorkor; Dr Thomas P Lecky, who gained worldwide acclaim for creating new cattle breeds Jamaica Hope, Jamaica Red and Jamaica Black that are more suitable to the Jamaican climate and terrain; and aerospace engineer Mr Robert Rashford who, in collaboration with Puerto Rican scientist Mr Charles Rivera, invented the world's first portable 3D non-destructive evaluation system that detects flaws in materials used to construct aircraft, spacecraft and industrial pipelines without having to take them apart. The system, we are told, was used in the maintenance of the United States Government's Hubble Space Telescope.

Professor Lalor, who began his career at The University of the West Indies (UWI) in 1960 as an assistant lecturer in chemistry, eventually became pro-vice chancellor in 1974 and was appointed principal in 1991.

After retiring from the job, he spearheaded the formation of the International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences (ICENS). As director of ICENS, he acquired the use of the Slowpoke Nuclear Reactor for research, which led to the development of a geochemical map of elements in Jamaican soils which aids in the detection of contaminated land and provides important information for government planning agencies.

Among his other outstanding achievements are the discovery of haematoxylin, a substance extracted from logwood and used in the diagnosis of cancer; the introduction of satellite technology to broadcast information remotely, thus leading to the development of The UWI's Distance Teaching Experiment in 1982 that allowed for lectures being broadcast from the university's main campus to centres in rural Jamaica and other Caribbean islands which were equipped to receive the signals.

Professor Lalor also spearheaded the implementation of programmes for deaf students, facilitated the education of the handicapped, and supported the development of microcomputer applications.

He has also served on regional and international committees focused on science, metrication, and education and sat on Jamaica's Electoral Advisory Committee.

The awards deservedly made to Professor Lalor over his many years of service to the country are too numerous to mention. However, it is fitting to point out that in 1980 the Government of Jamaica conferred on him the Order of Distinction, Commander Class for his work in science and technology, and in 1990 he was invested into the Order of Jamaica.

As we said before, Professor Lalor is most deserving of the Order of Merit. All Jamaica should be proud of his achievements.


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