History of The Caribbean Academy of Sciences (CAS)

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The idea of establishing a Caribbean Academy of Sciences (CAS) was informally proposed at the General Assembly Meeting of the International Council of Scientific Unions [ICSU] in Bern, Switzerland in September 1986. Among the ICSU members supporting the suggestion were: Nobel Laureate Sir John Kendrew - President of ICSU; Professor MGK Menon - President-elect of ICSU; Professor Raimundo Villegas - later Chancellor of the Latin American Academy of Sciences; The Swiss Academy of Science; the Third World Academy of Science; the International Foundation for Science; the US National Academy of Science; the Royal Swedish Academy; the African Academy of Sciences; the Israel Academy of Science and the Royal Nepal Academy of Science and Technology. The Caribbean member on the ICSU Committee for S&T in Developing Countries [COSTED] was mandated to raise the idea within the S&T community in the Caribbean and to support efforts to found a Caribbean Academy. The COSTED Caribbean member who was then the Director of the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute [CARIRI] assigned CARIRI Dep. Director - Dr. Desmond Ali, the task of promoting the Academy and COSTED Caribbean provided financial support for the activities leading to the formation of the Academy, including the inaugural seminar.

The next step was taken by the Physics Department of the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago and subsequently by the Natural Sciences Faculty Board.  They endorsed the idea and a small group of senior faculty members was asked to form a subcommittee to address all matters associated with the establishment of an Academy of Sciences for the Caribbean Region. It soon became apparent to the subcommittee that because of the relatively small size of the region and in particular the need to have a critical mass of scientists for the Academy to be an effective regional force for science, it was necessary to include not only natural sciences, but also the agricultural sciences which have an excellent track record for scientific research in the region, the engineering sciences which have and continue to play an important role in the development of an industrial base in the society and the medical sciences which have an excellent record of scholarship and the development of medical institutions in the region. At a later stage, after much and sometimes painful debate, the Social Sciences were included. It was in addition, decided that the Academy would not restrict itself to reside within the walls of The University of the West Indies, but should embrace scientists working outside the university environment. It was also agreed that appropriate resources of the Trinidad and Tobago Science Association (TTSA) which was established in 1983, should be utilized.

In October 1987, a nine-man steering committee was formed to plan the inauguration of CAS. The members of the committee were:

Prof. Ramsey Saunders, Faculty of Natural Sciences Dr. Winston Suite, Faculty of Engineering
Dr. Roman Antozewski, Faculty of Natural Sciences Dr. Dennis Irvine, UNESCO
Dr. Harold Ramkissoon, Faculty of Natural Sciences Dr. Julian Duncan, Faculty of Agriculture
Prof. George N. Melville, Faculty of Medical Sciences Dr. Desmond Ali, President TTSA
Dr. Compton Seaforth, Faculty of Natural Sciences and Member of the TTSA


The steering committee organized the inauguration of the CAS at an international seminar on "Science, Development and Society" at the Central Bank Auditorium in Port of Spain, Trinidad on 16th and 17th May 1988. Regional dignitaries attending the inauguration included Sir John Compton, the then Chairman of the Commonwealth Caribbean Heads of Government, Senator Michael Williams, President of the Senate of Trinidad and Tobago and Honourable Winston Dookeran, Minister responsible for Science and Technology in Trinidad and Tobago. Academies of Sciences worldwide either sent representatives or messages of congratulations to the Academy. The seminar itself was a resounding success. The keynote address was given by Professor W J Whelan of ICSU who represented Professor M G K Menon. Feature addresses were given by Professor Lalor who spoke on behalf of the disciplines of Natural Sciences; Professor H. Phelps who spoke on behalf of the Engineering Sciences; Professor Rolf Richards who spoke on behalf of the Medical Sciences; Mr. Frank Barsotti, a leading regional economist who spoke on behalf of the Social Sciences; Dr. Hayden Blades of CARICOM who spoke on behalf of the Agricultural Sciences and Dr. C H D Madagza, the representative of President Odhiambo of the African Academy of Sciences who spoke on "Some Experiences of the African Academy of Sciences".

Strong support for the seminar was provided by the Carnegie Foundation of New York and the private sector of Trinidad and Tobago. During the business session of the seminar, an Interim Executive Committee of the CAS was formed and Professor Ramsey Saunders named Interim President. The Interim Executive Committee was mandated to:
  • Invite suitable persons for membership of the Academy
  • Prepare and publish the Proceedings of the inaugural meeting
  • Revise the draft constitution of the Academy on the basis of reports of working groups
  • Organise and call the First Annual General Meeting
The objectives of the CAS were established in the early days of the Academy, and are as follows:
  • To provide a forum for interchange of ideas among scientists on important issues related to the application of Science and Technology
  • To serve as a source of advise to regional governments and regional governmental and non-governmental organizations in scientific and technological matters.
  • To facilitate cooperation among scientists and promote the execution and coordination of scientific research in all its aspects
  • To liaise with relevant research organisation and assist in facilitating their mutual interaction
  • To recognise and reward outstanding performance and achievement within the region in the fields of Science and Technology
  • To undertake, and collaborate in, the collation and publication of results of scientific research
  • To raise the level of scientific consciousness in the region, and increase the public understanding and appreciation of the importance and potential of Science and Technology in human progress
  • To establish and maintain high standards of ethics in all scientific endeavours

CAS in an effort to maintain its objectives strives to publish all scientific proceedings of the Annual General Meetings and a bi-annual newsletter which is distributed throughout the academy membership and elsewhere. In 2007 it launched an on-line e-journal for publication of conference proceedings and seminars.

Linkages have been established with the The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS), who together with CAS, sponsors an annual scientific award to a young scientist, the International Council for Science (ISCU) and COSTED.
CAS is also a member of the Inter Academy Panel (IAP) which addresses international scientific issues. Regionally, CAS has formed close ties with the University of the West Indies (UWI) and Universities des Antilles et de la Guyane.

The Jamaica Chapter of CAS is the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) National Adhering Organisation (NAO) representing Chemists.

Current membership stands at over 200 members, including scientists from the English-speaking Caribbean, Guadeloupe, Cuba, Guyana and Suriname. It is an independent, non-governmental body aiming to: provide a forum for interchange among scientists on important issues related to the application of science and technology to development; serve as a source of advice to regional, governmental and non-governmental organizations in scientific and technology matters; facilitate cooperation among scientists and promote the coordination and execution of scientific research in all its aspects; liaise with relevant research organizations and assist in facilitating their mutual interaction; recognize and reward outstanding performance and achievement within the region in the fields of science and technology; raise the level of scientific consciousness in the region and increase the public understanding and appreciation of the importance and potential of science and technology in human progress; establish and maintain high standards and ethics in all scientific endeavour.

Presidents of CAS
Professor Ramsey Saunders (1988 - 1996)
Professor Harold Ramkissoon (1996 - 2000)
Professor Wilfred Chan (2000 - 2002)
Professor Winston Mellowes (2002 - 2006)
Professor Tara Dasgupta (2006 - 2010)
Eng. Hollis Charles (2010- )