It is now being accepted that indigenous, or oral and undocumented knowledge is critical to understanding the plants and materials of the world that biological prospectors are studying. These prospectors are finding that there is more to using a plant for new medicines and substances than just breaking it down into its chemical components. They understand that the indigenous people have knowledge that fills in the gaps between the physical substances and what has to be done with them in order to make them work. There are many undocumented chemists in the Liberian society that understands the plants and biological surroundings of Liberia but are not formally educated.
I am very proud to have the opportunity to write about Liberia’s first educated and documented chemist. As Liberia's first chemist, the late Victor E. Ward, served as a professor at the University of Liberia and as a Chemist at the water plant in White Plains, Liberia. In 1970, he became the Chairman of the Chemistry Department at the State University of Liberia, a position he held until his untimely death in 1990. Professor Ward traveled to the United States in 1974 as a Fulbright Professor at the University of California-Sacramento. His written works include: “Patterns and Perspectives in Teaching of Organic Chemistry at the University Level” and “Some Base Promoted Reactions between Nitro and Methylene Groups.”
Professor Ward enjoyed putting together his exhibits at the Annual Science Fair held at the Science and Technology College at the University of Liberia. He was often the last to take down his exhibits because he wanted to make sure each young person attending the Fair got the opportunity to see the exhibits and learn about chemistry.
He almost single-handedly developed the chemistry lab at the University of Liberia, and worked as a Consultant to the government of Liberia Ministries of Justice and Commerce performing lab analysis. He was instrumental in sending his top students to teach at the College of West Africa, and when he wasn’t teaching, he would volunteer his service on projects such as renovating the CWA lab.
After 20 years of serving as the Chairman of the Chemistry Department, T.J.R. Faulkner School of Science and Technology, Professor Ward was gunned down on the Fendall Campus of the University of Liberia by soldiers of the Charles Taylor warring faction in the month of November 1990. He was killed along with two other university professors: Mr. Albert Sinewah and Mr. Bowier.
A champion of science education, Professor Ward always encouraged his students to become world scientists even though they lived in a small country on the West Coast of Africa. Today, many of his students have careers in medicine, geology, chemistry, pharmacy, and chemical engineering. He founded LISTA - the Liberian Science and Technology Association in Monrovia and represented Liberia.
In 2000, ten years after his death, his daughter, Vickie, founded the Victor E. Ward Memorial Educational Fund for the sole purpose of carrying out his life work. The mission of the Fund is to promote education in the sciences, particularly in Chemistry. Over the years, the Fund has become a recognized 501 c 3 not-for-profit organization headquartered in New Jersey with an affiliate chapter in Texas. In 2008, the Ward Fund became a registered NGO in the Republic of Liberia.
Tops off to you, Mr. Victor E. Ward, we are very proud of your accomplishments and the passion you had for chemistry. Peace to you, our Liberian brother.