The Caribbean region is not void of excellence. In fact, despite many Caribbean countries’ limited access to resources that are in abundance in more fortunate areas of the west, it remains customary in many circles that people, especially children, strive for the extraordinary, be it in academics or otherwise.
When Swedish Chemist Alfred Nobel passed in 1896, he left behind US$9 million to establish what is today known as the Nobel Prizes. The idea was that annually, Nobel Prizes would be awarded to succeeders from around the world, in the fields of peace, literature, chemistry, physics, and physiology or medicine. The first ever Nobel Prize was issued in 1901. Since then, three Caribbean nationals have been assigned the honour and title of “Nobel Laureate”—two of them hailing from the Caribbean same island; Saint Lucia.
Sir William Arthur Lewis was the son of two Antiguan teachers who traveled to Saint Lucia in search of better educational
opportunities for their children. As a boy, Sir Arthur showed early signs of remarkable intelligence. He won a government scholarship in 1932—when he was 17-years-old, which landed him at the London School of Economics, where he became the first black student to enroll. Later, Sir Arthur would go on to be the first black lecturer at LSE; The first black professor at University of Manchester; the first black full-time professor at Princeton University and the first and only black man to receive a Nobel Prize for a science-based discipline (excludes peace and literature).
Sir Derek Walcott on the other hand, received a Nobel Prize a year after Saint Lucia lost their first Nobel Laureate; Sir W. Arthur Lewis, who passed in 1991. When Derek Walcott was just
14 years old, he published his first literary work; a poem titled 1944, in The Voice Newspaper. At the age of 18, he self-published his first book, 25 poems; a collection of poetry, after receiving a $200 loan from his mother. He sold copies to friends and on street corners to pay her back, before going on to publish his second collection of poetry; Epitaph for the Young: XII Cantos in 1949. In his former years, Walcott made several contributions to the local art scene in Saint Lucia, with initiatives like the Saint Lucia Arts Guild. He also established what is known today as the Trinidad Theatre Workshop, in Port of Spain, T&T. In 1991 Walcott became the recipient of a Nobel Prize in Literature; a first for a Caribbean national.
Every year the life and achievements of Saint Lucia’s two Nobel Laureates are celebrated on their island home via the Nobel Laureate Festival—more specifically Nobel Laureate day; January 23, which is the day both Sir Arthur and Sir Derek celebrated their birthdays.
Read part 2 HERE