Geoff Palmer (scientist)

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Sir Godfrey Henry Oliver Palmer OBE (born 9 April 1940[1]) is a Professor Emeritus in the School of Life Sciences at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland.[2][3] He lives in the village of Penicuik, in Midlothian.[4] In 2011, he became the first and only black professor in Scotland.[4][5]

Early years[edit]

Born in St Elizabeth, Jamaica,[6] in 1940, Palmer grew up in Kingston, Jamaica, under the care of his eight aunts after his mother migrated to work in London in 1948.[7] In 1955, at the age of 14, he joined his mother in London, attending Shelborne Road Secondary Modern.[7] After leaving school in 1958 with six O-Levels and two A-levels, he found a job as a junior lab technician at Queen Elizabeth College, London University, working for Professor Garth Chapman.

In 1961 Palmer went to Leicester University, earning a degree in botany by 1964.[7] He applied to do a joint PhD in grain science and technology at Heriot-Watt College and Edinburgh University, beginning his doctorate in 1965. In 1968 he began his research work at the Brewing Research Foundation in Surrey,[7] where he worked on the science and technology of barley from 1968 to 1977.[8]

Academic work[edit]

Palmer specialises in grain science and has extensive expertise with barley, sorghum, other cereals and malt, having written a textbook on the subject entitled Cereal Science and Technology. He is the inventor of the Barley Abrasion process, and recently developed a new simple method to detect pre-germination in cereal grains showing difference in amylase actions of individual grains of a barley sample containing different degrees of pre-germination. Results can be expressed in Optical Density.[9] In the journal International Brewer and Distiller[10] it was reported that Palmer had "requested samples of pre-germinated grain as he is developing a new amylase test which will look at the distribution of the enzyme across individual grains in a sample. A small number of grains, with high amylase/pre-germination activity, can cause unexpected storage or processing problems and visual or average analyses do not always identify uneven distribution."

In 2008, Palmer became the fourth and only European individual to be honoured with the American Society of Brewing Chemists (ASBC) Award for distinction in scientific research and good citizenship: he received the award in Boston, Massachusetts in 2008.[6] Additionally, he attracted and received funding to set up the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University, through initiating contact with the distilling industry. He has also contributed to the Encyclopedia of Seeds and the Encyclopedia of Grain Science, writing the Foreword for the latter.

Palmer has been awarded a Doctorate of Science and an Honorary Doctorate of Science the Arts from Abertay University and the Open University respectively. In recognition of his work and achievements in the field of grain science, he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2003.[6] He was knighted in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to human rights, science, and charity.[11][12]

Human rights and racial equality work[edit]

Alongside his academic work, Palmer is also a prominent human rights activist and is involved in a considerable amount of charity work in the community. He has authored a book on race relations entitled Mr. White and the Ravens, and contributed an article to The Scotsman newspaper entitled "Stephen Lawrence analysis: Society is more mixed but racism has not gone away - we still have a long way to go" (5 January 2012). Palmner has also authored a book on the history of slavery, The Enlightenment: Citizens of Britishness (2007), and has spoken out extensively against the slave trade.[13][14][15] In 2007, the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade in the British Empire, Professor Geoff Palmer was named among the "100 Great Black Britons".[16]

In August 2011, the Midlothian Council made Palmer a Freeman of Midlothian.[17] He also serves as the Honorary President of Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council (ELREC), an Edinburgh-based organization which works to tackle discrimination and promote human rights and equality in the community, specifically with regards to the nine protected characteristics outlined in the Equality Act 2010.[18] Palmer recently spoke about the Ethnic Coding in NHS Scotland at ELREC's 40th Annual General Meeting.[19]

Personal life[edit]

Palmer is married with three children.


  1. ^ "Godfrey Henry Oliver (Geoff) PALMER", Debrett's People of Today.
  2. ^ Professor Geoff Palmer Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  3. ^ "Professor Geoff Palmer to Made Freeman Midlothian", News & events, Heriot-Watt University, 14 September 2011. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  4. ^ a b "First black university professor knighted", Herald Scotland, 31 December 2013.
  5. ^ "Godfrey Henry Palmer is Scotland's first black professor in Scotland", Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  6. ^ a b c Professor Palmer, 100 Great Black Britons. Retrieved December 25, 2011.
  7. ^ a b c d "Biography - Geoff Palmer". From Marjorie H. Morgan, Caribbean Britain: The Cultural and Biographical Directory, 2013.
  8. ^ "Geoff PALMER, Grain Scientist", Penicuik Greats.
  9. ^ File:Degrees of Barley Pregermination by Prof Geoff Palmer.jpg
  10. ^ International Brewer and Distiller, 8:8 (August 2012), 5.
  11. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 60728. p. 2. 31 December 2013.
  12. ^ "Eminent alumni named in New Year’s Honours list", News - The University of Edinburgh, 28 January 2014.
  13. ^ "Transcript of 'Trading Truth' clip", BBC . Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  14. ^ Jackie Kemp, "Tartan and home truths. A new centre for the study of the Scottish diaspora is already caught up in controversy", The Guardian, 25 November 2008. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  15. ^ The Enlightenment Abolished: Citizens of Britishness (paperback), Henry Publishing, 10 December 2007. ISBN 978-0-9549519-4-8.
  16. ^ List of 100 Great Black Britons. 100 Great Black Britons. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  17. ^ "Penicuik Man to Join Nelson Mandela as a Freeman of Midlothian". Midlothian government site. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  18. ^ ELREC directors Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  19. ^ 40th AGM ELREC Newsletter, December 2011. Retrieved 25 December 2011.

External links[edit]