The Science Library houses a reference collection of over 10,000 titles including rare publications, on Jamaica’s flora and fauna. The Library is open to the general public; the facilities are often used by visiting researchers, students of secondary and tertiary institutions and professional staff members of the Natural History Museum of Jamaica. The opening hours are: Monday – Thursday 9:00- 4:30 and Friday 9:00 – 3:30.
Black History Month Feature
Dr. Cicely Williams 1893-1992
(First Female Physician)
Cicely Williams was born on December 2, 1893 on a large farm near Bethel Town in Westmoreland, Jamaica. She enjoyed playing with the children from the poorer homes in the district and would became very sad when these children became ill, and were too sick to play. At 13 she left Jamaica to be educated in England, beginning her studies in Bath and was then awarded a place at Somerville College, Oxford when she was 19. She deferred her place at college, as she returned to Jamaica to help her parents after a devastating series of earthquakes and hurricanes. After the death of her father in 1916 Williams, then 23, returned to Oxford and began studying medicine. Williams was one of the first females admitted into the course. In 1923 she became one of Britain’s first female doctors, and the first Jamaican to achieve this distinction. In 1929 she was posted to the Gold Coast known today as Ghana in West Africa.
To her surprise, the children in Ghana suffered from the same illness as those in her district in Westmoreland. They bellies would often swell, they would have diarrhoea and fever and became extremely thin and weak. After several experiment and treatments Dr. Williams announced to the world that the conditioned was protein-calorie malnutrition, and named the disease “kwashiorkor”, the term used in West Africa to describe the illness. Dr. Williams developed a special treatment regime for those children who showed the symptoms of protein-calorie malnutrition (PCM). PCM proved to have been prevalent throughout the Tropical World, and her treatment was almost 100% effective.
Wherever it was used, the death rate among children fell drastically and the general health and vitality of the children began to improve. It was one of the greatest discoveries of the 20th Century and saves millions of lives every year. In 1977 was awarded the Ceres Medal by the World Health Organization (WHO), and honour bestowed only for service to mankind of the highest order. In 1986 Dr Williams was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Ghana, for her “love, care and devotion to sick children”.
During her career, she lectured at many Universities in Europe and the USA and also the University of the West Indies, Mona. She was the first person to receive the Order of Merit, the highest honour that any Jamaican civilian may receive while alive.
This remarkable woman, Dr. Cicely Williams died on September 13, 1992 at the age of 99.