The Department of Chemistry, UWI-Mona
As you pass the front gates onto
campus, the Laboratories of the
Chemistry Department are the first buildings you see on your
Forties and Fifties
For an account of the History of the Department of Chemistry
at Mona, that emphasises the early years, see the book by
Professor Emeritus Kenneth Magnus and Prof. Robert Lancashire. It
was published by Ian Randle Publishers and is available from the UWI Mona Bookshop, and
The University admitted its first students in 1948, as a College
of the University of London (UK). The first lecture given on
campus, was in the Department of Chemistry by Professor Cedric Hassall, a New Zealander, to
a group of thirty-three premedical students. Professor Hassall
had been handpicked by Professor Alexander Todd of Cambridge
University (UK). The original
temporary wooden building in which this lecture was given was
almost totally destroyed by hurricane Gilbert in 1988 and then
finally demolished in 2001 to make way for Founders Park.
Cedric Hassall spent nine years at the University College of the
West Indies (as it then was). During that time he was vigorous in
building a research school and founding a Department that would
set the seal on its pursuit of excellence. He made Natural
Products Chemistry his specialty. The postdoctoral fellows in his
group included Frank Curtis, Karl Reyle and Bernard Smith. The
school of postgraduate studies in that area has continued as one
of the major areas of emphasis in the Department.
His work is most notable for investigations which led to the
discovery of hypoglycin in
ackees, thereby explaining the previous mysterious, vomiting
sickness, but he also investigated yams, sisal and the toxic
constiuents of higher plants. In addition he studied
microorganisms for substances of possible pharmaceutical use. The
studies on the Panama disease of bananas led to an anitbiotic
(Monamycin) which was found to be active against human pathogens.
He was early in the field of flavour constituents and examined
those which gave rum its characteristics.
He was responsible for a subdepartment of Chemical Technology
which offered a postgraduate diploma and which carried out pilot
plant developments in salt manufacture, charcoal production and
its byproducts, as well as on clays. The work on clays was done
in cooperation with Royal Worcester, UK. and led to the
establishment of a factory in Jamaica, just outside Spanish Town.
The patterns were labelled Island
The Department is host to an International Conference on Natural
Products and Medicinal Chemistry (The Mona Symposium) every two
years. The twenty-sixth was held in January 2016 and the
next is scheduled for January
Research has always been a major thrust within the Department and
staff have published several hundred papers on their work through
which the Department has gained international recognition,
particularly in the fields of Natural Products Chemistry and
Inorganic Reaction Mechanisms.
The Academic Staff of the Department over
the years have supervised the work of more than 70 M.Phil.
and 50 Ph.D. theses and currently have over 40 Postgraduate
students in the M.Phil. and Ph.D. programmes. A description of current staff interests and brief
cv's is available.
Research in the Department is funded by the University and by
research grants from local and international agencies.
For a look at an article describing some of the achievements of the
Department see the
Chem and Eng News Article, June 2004
Return to Chemistry, UWI-Mona, Home
Copyright © 1994-2016 by Robert John
Lancashire, all rights reserved.
Created and maintained by Prof. Robert J.
The Department of Chemistry, University of the West Indies,
Mona Campus, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
Created Sept 1994. Links checked and/or last
modified 10th January, 2016.